In what may very well have been a preview of the Kaysinger Conference Tournament championship game, the Sacred Heart Gremlins scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to post a come-from-behind 5-4 Kaysinger Conference win over the Northwest Mustangs under heavily overcast skies and cool conditions Friday evening at Centennial Park.
With two of the top pitchers in the league — Gremlin senior lefty Cale Spangler and Northwest sophomore right-hander Cortlen Austin on the mound, this one looked like a classic.
After surrendering three unearned runs in the second inning and another Mustang run in the third, Spanger shut the Mustangs down, tossing four ininings of two-hit, shutout baseball with nine strikeouts over the last four innings, to pick up the win.
From the start, Northwest jumped into the lead with three unearned runs in the second inning on three Gremlin errors, Wyatt Payne started the inning off with a single and went to second one out later when Daren Leicher reached on the first of three Gremlin errors in the inning. Brad Unkel singled to load the sacks. Quincy Wicker walked to force in the game’s first run. Two Sacred Heart errors sandwiched around a Spangler strikeout got Northwest up 3-0.
It could have been worse as the Mustangs left the bases loaded and stranded 11 runners on base in the game. Northwest got two runners on in the first inning but Andrew Underwood flew out to shallow center and Austin was doubled up at second to end the inning. He was also the victim of a botched suicide squeeze play in the third when the Mustang hitter failed to make contact on thee bunt, leaving Austin out to dry.
Sacred Heart cut into their deficit in the home half of the second when first baseman Caleb Morrison hit a two-out, solo homer down the left field line to get the Gremlins within 3-1.
Northwest got its three-run cushion back on three straight singles by Payne, Tristan Reece and Ryan Rafferty to give the Mustangs a 4-1 lead.
That’s when Spangler, an All Conference and All District pitcher last spring with an 8-1 record, got tough and his defense behind him stiffened. Spangler allowed two hits and struck out eight over the final four innings and the Gremlins had one error in that span.
Sacred Heart cut it to 4-2 in the fourth on an RBI single by Ben Smeltzer.
Spangler struck out two in the fourth, fifth and sixth and fanned the side in the seventh.
The Gremlins staged their game-winning rally in the sixth. Caleb Tanguay doubled in two runs to to tie the game at 4-4 and Mason Kelchner singled in the game winning run as Sacred Heart improved to 3-1 on the season and 1-0 in the Kaysinger.
Northwest, playing their fourth game in four nights, fell to 4-3 overall and 2-1 in conference.
Smeltzer had two hits to lead the Gremlins nine-hit attack. Morrison homered, drove in a run and scored once.
Quincy Wicker, Austin, Payne, Reece and Unkel each had two hits for the Mustangs.
Spangler allowed four runs (one earned), 11 hits, struck out nine and walked five to improve his record to 2-0 on the season.
Austin, 2-1 on the season, allowed five earned runs, nine hits, struck out seven and walked three. Photos by Randy Kirby, Sedalia News Journal.