On Tuesday the Mexico varsity baseball team had a second round district matchup with host Boonville, the third ranked team in Class four according to the final Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association rankings, after charting a rousing round one, 21-9 win over league rival Moberly.
When the Bulldogs then came out and posted two hits in the top of the first inning and held the Pirates scoreless in the bottom of the stanza, the impossible dream was starting to seem possible. But then the bottom of the third began with Mexico down 1-0, and when it ended Boonville was up 4-0. So when the bottom of the fourth ended and the Bulldogs were trailing by 11 runs, that left them just one at-bat to keep their season alive, and while Collin Clay did chart a two-out single, Mexico still lost 11-0.
"I thought we got off to a decent start. We jumped in the box and swung the bat knowing we had to be aggressive," said Mexico coach Keith Louder. "Boonville's Barnes is a solid pitcher. In return we needed to be solid. I thought we jumped on him early. We got a couple runners on him in the first, but couldn't get anybody across. We held them in the first and I thought we did a decent job in the second."
Because Mexico only had three hits and two errors for this five inning affair, compared to nine hits and no errors for the Pirates, that didn't leave starting pitcher Zach Watkins feeling much in the way of support. Instead, Boonville starting pitcher Connor Barnes had the type of performance that included striking out Watkins, Cameron Baumgartner and Gage Worley to retire the side in the second.
"That fourth inning kind of blew up in our face. They're a good hitting team and you can't afford to put guys on," Louder said. "Every time we played them this year we gave them too many walks. You can't do that against a team that hits the ball as well as they do. You have to give your defense a chance to make an out. It's tough to lose that way, but like I told the guys, it's always tough to lose your last game of the season, whether it's a blowout or a one-run game.
In the third the Bulldogs were just as frustrated starting with Taylor Bledsoe grounding out to second and Ty Prince striking out. Marquis Smith then hit a bullet to the third baseman that was just above his left knee that he was able to put his glove on for the third and final out of the inning.
Cole Whalen was able to start the fourth for Mexico by getting some serious air on a ball that was eventually pulled in by the centerfielder. But, after that Cody Rowe and Quinton Baumgartner went down swinging for outs two and three.
"Cody Rowe had a geat year at the plate. He saw the ball real well and hit well and the coaches around the conference recognized that," Louder said. "That's why they voted him to the All-North Central Missouri Conference team. I was really happy for him that he got that recognition. I'd have liked to have seen a couple of other guys get that same recognition, but you have to win some more league games to get that."
It was all hands on deck in the fifth for the Bulldogs starting with pinch hitter Chase Haines, who gave it all he had, but too much height and not enough distance ended in a fly ball to the left fielder for the first out of the inning. Next up was Cameron Baumgartner, who came to the plate for Mexico with big intentions and a heavy swing, but when he failed to connect Collin Clay was able to scrap out a single to right field, but it was all for naught as Taylor Bledsoe grounded out to the shortstop to end the game.
Boonville next played the winner of Kirksville and Marshall at 5 p.m. on May 16 at Boonville.
"You always hate to see your seniors leaving, because it's always tough for them, but I told these guys I felt like they're close," said Louder. "If they work on some things between now and next season and don't wait for next season, if they get to work there are a lot of peices that are coming back that will allow us to compete in our conference and win a lot of ball games. They can't let this loss dictate who they're going to be. Instead this should motivate them to do more next year."