By Jason Peake
A bunt single provided a much-needed spark for the Webb City Cardinals.
Top-seeded Webb City rode one big inning to a 4-0 victory over fifth-seeded Republic in the semifinals of the Class 5 District 11 baseball tournament on Monday at Joplin High School.
The Cardinals will take on Carthage at 6 p.m. today in the championship game. As the top of the fifth inning arrived, the Cardinals hadn't recorded a hit. And it was a bunt that set the table for the game-changing frame.
"We went through four innings of hitting easy ground balls and routine fly balls," Webb City coach Garry Highfill said. "So, we decided to bunt until we made an out. It was a win or go home situation."
To start the fifth, and with the game scoreless, junior catcher Kade Hicks reached on a bunt single down the third base line.
"We've been working on our bunting this week and we were fortunate we got one of them down," Highfill said. "Kade put one in a perfect spot and that was the spark that got us going."
After Hicks registered Webb City's first hit of the game, senior shortstop Zach Biastock smacked an RBI single into left, taking second on an error.
"Coach had the bunt sign on, but I had two strikes," Biastock said. "I found a pitch I liked and took it to left field."
"Zach hit it in the right place and their left fielder didn't handle it cleanly," Highfill said. "It was a good at-bat by Zach and it got a big run home."
The Cardinals were just getting started, as Devrin Weathers and Treghan Parker both followed with run-scoring base hits. After Cade Beason walked, Bryson Matthews reached on an error, giving the Cardinals a 4-0 lead.
Biastock noted the Cardinals were ready to make something happen when they came to bat in the fifth.
"Our mentality was it's time to go, it's time to score some runs," Biastock said.
The Tigers, who stranded the bases loaded in the fourth, left a runner on in the sixth and went down in order in the seventh.
"Republic's been playing really well and we knew coming in that we'd have to be on top of our game if we wanted to win this thing," Highfill said. "Our kids did a really good job of that."
A senior right-hander, Beason earned the win on the mound after striking out eight and scattering five hits in six solid innings.
"I wanted the ball today and I was ready," Beason said. "I was really depending on my fastball and I kept my curveball down. And Kade and I were on the same page today."
"A lot of their guys are opposite field hitters, so Beason threw inside to them and it gave them fits," Highfill said.
Cardinals closer Alex Bass struck out two in a scoreless seventh to secure the win.
Republic senior righthander Clayton Crowley was charged with the loss after he surrendered five hits and two earned runs in six innings.
Jacob Crosswhite had two hits for the Tigers, who end the season at 1412. Hicks had two of Webb City's five hits.
The Cardinals enter tonight's title game with a record of 16-11.
Joplin Globe 05/14/2019 (Used by permission)