Will play Helias for the title tonight starting at 5 p.m.
Anybody and everybody knew that Monday night’s game in the Class 4 District 9 Tournament between Boonville and Southern Boone was going to be different than the first time the two teams met back on April 1st.
While the Pirates won that game 4-0 with a combined one hit shutout by Reece Lang and Connor Barnes, that game was also more than a month ago.
Fast forward to Monday’s semifinal game with a little more at stake. Win this game and move on to the championship on Tuesday. Lose and go home for the rest of the season.
In a much closer game than the first meeting, the Pirates escaped with a one-run victory against the Eagles 5-4.
Boonville, 17-8 on the season, will now play top-seeded Helias, 20-4, in the title game tonight starting at 5 p.m. The Crusaders edged Marshall in the first semifinal 3-0.
Tonight’s winner will move on to the sectional round of the state tournament on Tuesday, May 21st.
Of course the story line in this game was the pitching of senior Connor Barnes, who struck out a season-high 16 batters in 6 1/3 innings. Although Barnes had a small hiccup in the fifth as SBC rallied back with four runs to tie the game, the right-handed hurler was effective just the same with five scoreless innings to lower his ERA for the season to 1.370 with 75 strikeouts in 46 innings.
Boonville Pirates baseball coach Adam Arnette said Barnes really carried the team on the mound with 16 strikeouts in the game. “Connor just did a really good job of being efficient,” Arnette said. “He went all the way into the seventh but couldn’t quite finish it because he reached his pitch limit, so Kayle (Rice) came in and finished it up for him and did a great job.”
Arnette also knew things would be different this time around against SBC. Although the Pirates still out-hit the Eagles 10-6 and never trailed from the first inning on, Arnette said he knew it would be a dogfight.
“I knew they had been hitting the ball a lot better lately,” Arnette said. “However in games like this mistakes happen and we made a few, you just can’t let them compound into bigger ones. We started to do that in the fifth but we kind of relaxed and stopped the bleeding and that’s exactly what we needed to do and then we stepped up and answered right back.”
Of course it was Southern Boone who tried to stop the bleeding early on as Boonville plated three runs in the bottom half of the first and one again in the second. The Pirates also loaded bases in both innings while sending a total of 14 batters to the plate.
But it’s how the Pirates scored that will continue to baffle SBC coach Brian Ash. While giving up seven hits in those two innings, the Eagles also had one walk, catcher interference and a mental error with nobody covering first on a bunt single.
That’s just the first-two innings. But at the same time, Boonville put the ball in play in the first with a lead-off single by Barnes to start the game and then three straight singles by Cody Garner, Peyton Keeran and Josh Polk to close it out to make it 3-0.
Meanwhile, in the second, Boonville again made some noise by loading the bases on three straight hits by Lane West, Carson Campbell and Barnes. West and Campbell have both been on a tear in the district tournament with four hits in six at bats. However it was a sacrifice fly to right by Rice to bring in the fourth run for Boonville to extend the lead to 4-0.
But that all changed in the top half of the fifth for the Eagles. With only two batters reaching base in the first-four innings, Southern Boone began to find its way a little bit in the fifth.
The good news is that Boonville was able to stop the bleeding after only four runs and four hits. The bad news is that Southern Boone tied the game at 4-all with only one hit reaching the outfield. The Eagles also went a little small ball-one being a suicide squeeze.
“First of all I thought the four runs in the first-two innings were huge because it allowed to relax and throw his game and that’s exactly what he did,” Arnette said. “Then, in the fifth, I think Southern Boone took advantage of some things. Connor was throwing from the windup so it gave them a little more time to lead off third and then we had some young kids in the field and they saw that. They tried to take advantage of that and it worked a few times, but eventually we kind of just relaxed and made a play.”
While the Eagles sent a total of nine batters to the plate in its half of the fifth, Boonville needed just five batters in the bottom half of the inning to get one of the runs back. But this run was huge because it put the Pirates in front to stay. It also came with two outs when West slapped another single past third to score Keeran, who had singled to center earlier in the inning.
“That run was huge because it gave us the lead,” Arnette said. “Connor just took over from there and like I said Rice finished it off.”
Barnes retired the side in the sixth and then reached his limit of pitches with one out in the seventh. With Barnes out of the game, the Eagles quickly went to work when freshman Carter Karotka beat out an infield single to first. But while trying to move the runner into scoring position, Watson gunned down Karotka at second for the second out. Rice then got Sam Bonderer on a fly out to center to end the game.
In addition to striking out 16, Barnes also gave up four runs on five hits. Rice, meanwhile, pitched 2/3 inning for the save and allowed just one hit.
Ethan Osborne took the loss for Southern Boone and gave up five runs on 10 hits and two walks in six innings. He also struck out three batters.
As for the hitting in the game for Boonville, Campbell went 2-for-3 with a single, double and one RBI. Peyton Keeran was also 2-for-3 with two singles and two RBIs while Lane West added two singles and one RBI, Connor Barnes with two singles, Josh Polk with one single and one RBI, Cody Garner with one single and Kayle Rice with one RBI.
For Southern Boone, Carter Karotka had two hits, one being a double. Nate Allen also doubled and drove in one run while Bonderer added one single and one RBI, Chase Schupp and Brady Tramell each with one single and Sam Stichnote with one RBI.
On tonight’s game against Helias, Arnette said he looks for Reece Lang to come in and not try to do too much and pitch his game and throw a lot of strikes. “We have a good defense so we’ll play well behind him,” Arnette said. “I think we are a completely different team since the first time we faced Helias. I think we have been hitting the ball a lot better and doing a lot better situational hitting. Our defense has improved immensely since then so I look for it to be a different ballgame.”
Helias beat Boonville 3-2 in eight innings on March 26 in Jefferson City but had to rally in the final three innings to win the game.