C&H BALLPARK – On Monday night, the Central Spartans varsity American Legion baseball team knew it needed just one more win to secure the No. 2 seed in the District 9 Championship Tournament, which begins this weekend in Washington, MO.
The Spartans had two regular season games left to play, but they knew if they could win on Monday, that they’d give themselves a chance to rest until their playoff opener at Ronsick Park on Friday.
And with that knowledge, Central played its best game of the season in an 8-3 win over rival Daniel Boone.
It was a glorious performance by a talented Spartan team that seems to be getting hot as the playoffs approach.
But that was Monday.
On Tuesday, Central closed out the regular season, in a much-less inspired effort against Elsberry Post #226. The visitors took full advantage of the Spartans' play and handed the team a humbling 17-2 loss.
“We were just kinda going through the motions tonight,” Spartans assistant coach Keith Watts said. “We didn’t use any of our regular pitchers. And we let guys play whatever position they wanted. We won the big one on Monday, and we just wanted to have some fun tonight.”
On the scoreboard though, it was Elsberry that had all the fun.
Post #226 swung its bats very well, registering 20 total hits, and scoring in every inning but the second and the fourth.
And Elsberry did big damage in the final four innings, scoring three times in the sixth, three more times in the seventh, a single run in the eighth, and six runs in the ninth, in what proved to be one of the most lopsided games of the season for both teams.
“We’re kinda saving our energy for the tournament this weekend,” Watts said. “The guys deserve to have a little bit of fun. So after the sixth, we told the guys whoever was the first to a (defensive) position could play there. We had guys playing positions they’d never played before. It was all in fun.”
And despite the score, it was clear the Spartans were enjoying themselves.
Every player that showed up got to play on Tuesday, and every starter played at least two positions.
Some even pitched, even though they’d never done it before.
The Spartans had a clear goal on Tuesday—they wanted to enjoy themselves before the intensity of the playoffs begins on Friday.
And although it was an unorthodox plan, it sure seemed to work for Central, whose entire team seemed re-energized and excited following Tuesday’s contest, which the Spartans clearly played just for the fun, and without the regular pressures of trying to win intense ballgames against a good opponents.
“These guys are clowns,” Watts said. “And it’s good for them to have some fun. The main thing is we got the one we needed on Monday. That was a big game. And we played our best game of the year.”
On Tuesday, the Spartans used six pitchers, and only one of them was a regular—2011 Francis Howell Central grad Jimmy McGrath.
Not surprisingly, McGrath was the only Spartan hurler to not give up any runs against Elsberry.
The Spartans were trying to save McGrath’s arm, and hopefully have him available for a potential playoff start sometime this weekend.
The Central lineup didn’t fare much better on Tuesday either.
They only managed three hits, with Travis Vaught, Erik Hodge, and Jayden Lumpa each doing the honors, and with Vaught and Lumpa scoring the two Spartan runs.
The intensity will ratchet back up for Central this Friday evening, when they’ll play their first District 9 tournament game at Ronsick Park in Washington, against either Daniel Boone or the North Knights.
Those two teams will square off in a first-round game on Thursday, at Ronsick, at 8 p.m.
As the No. 2 seed, Central earned a bye (as did top seed Washington), and will play the Boone-North winner at 8:30 p.m.
The District 9 South Division Tournament is a double-elimination event, with the championship game scheduled for 8:30 p.m., on Monday, July 18, at Ronsick Park.