The Cass Colonels ran into a hot pitcher Friday, as Kell’s Jake Lecroy shut them out for six innings and the Colonels couldn’t pull off an important region sweep, falling 7-2 at LakePoint.
“We saw maybe the best pitcher in the region today,” Cass coach Adam Williams said. “We came out and saw a good pitcher, and that guy on the bump can take a baseball team a long way and he carried them today.”
Cass only struck out four times against Lecroy’s high-80s heat, but could never square the ball up consistently, with infield popups a constant sight.
The Colonels threatened in the top of the first, with leadoff hitter Clay Means reaching when the first baseman dropped a routine throw, taking second on an errant pickoff, and moving to third on Jake Collum’s line-drive single.
Collum took advantage of some stupor on the part of the Longhorns to steal second, breaking with the ball still in Lecroy’s glove and reaching the bag ahead of a panicked throw to put runners on second and third, but popups from Steven Spell and Zach Yancey ended the inning and started the infield fly epidemic among the Colonels.
Austin Pruett started on the mound for Cass and struggled from the start.
The second Kell batter, Sam Blancato, smoked a line drive right back at Pruett, who barely got his glove in front of his body as the ball smacked into his thigh and deflected off for a single.
After a warmup pitch, Pruett determined that he was good to go, but after Blancato stole second, the next batter, Hunter Moody, followed with an RBI single to put Cass down 1-0 after one inning.
The only batter to reach base for Cass over the next three innings against Lecroy was Nathan Smith, who was hit by a pitch with one out in the second.
“The velocity is what it is, but [Lecroy] threw a lot of strikes,” Williams said. “We were constantly behind in the count and the score doesn’t show it, but we put good swings on the ball. ... Our kids battled. We just have to get timely hits.”
Kell, meanwhile, was building on the good start from its ace. Moody walked, moved to second on a single and third on a passed ball, and scored on a single from Bryan Grant in the third to make it 2-0.
Kell then broke the game open in the fourth. No. 8 hitter Noah Dawkins singled and was sacrificed to second, and Jaiden Moore singled and Blancato walked to load the bases.
That brought up Moody, the one hitter Cass didn’t want to see, and the Kell three-hitter came through with a two-run double.
Blake Metcalfe brought home another run with a sac fly and Grant had another run-scoring single to bring home the fourth run of the inning.
Pruett finally escaped with a little help from his defense, as Grant took off for second base.
Smith’s throw went into center field, but Collum came up throwing to third and Grant, initially safe, overslid the bag. An alert Spell at third base kept the tag on for the third out of the inning.
“We just have to eliminate that one inning,” Williams said. “We’re notorious for that one inning that kills us."
Cass, trying for a comeback, put runners on in each of the next two innings, but couldn’t score, while Kell added its seventh run in the fifth against reliever Spell.
The Colonels did scrape out a few consolation runs in the top of the seventh, as Tyler Hendon, pinch-hitting with two outs and the bases empty, rocketed a fly-ball double to the base of the wall in center.
Means followed with a single, Campbell was hit by a pitch, and Collum’s drive just barely cleared the outstretched glove of Kell’s right fielder for a two-run double.
That was it, though, as thoughts of a comeback died with Spell’s popup to third to end it.
The loss, coming off a big walk-off win over the Longhorns on Thursday, keeps Cass in fourth place in Region 7-AAAAA—the last playoff spot—with four games to go.
Most of the other teams in the region have six games left, but the Colonels still control their own destiny, according to Williams.
They’ll start playing for that destiny Monday at home against East Paulding at 5:55 p.m.