Five game winning streaks are always good. Five game winning streaks are even better at the end of the season during tournament time. Winning streaks mean a team keeps playing, which is exactly the case for the Festus baseball Tigers. In a championship game that will be remembered for a long time, the Tigers rallied twice after falling behind to defeat the Potosi Trojans 10-7.
Nothing about the start of the game foreshadowed what was to come. Both teams didn’t score in the first inning, and the Tigers were blanked in the second. The bottom of the second was disastrous for Festus as Potosi knocked around starting pitcher Andrew Douglas (12). When the dust cleared, the Trojans were comfortably leading 5-0.
After a scoreless third inning, the Tigers finally broke through when, with two out, Elijah Richeson (12) blasted a home run that easily cleared the center field fence. It was only one run, but the Tigers finally had a little momentum.
Meanwhile, Richeson, who came in to relieve Douglas in the third inning, was mowing down the Trojans. He threw three scoreless innings, keeping Potosi stuck on five runs. And in the sixth inning, the Tigers finally got things going offensively.
Jake Leitner (11) and Brennan Pryor (11) started the sixth inning with two infield singles. The Trojans decided to lift starting pitcher Garrett Wilkinson for Tristan Brown, and the Tigers made things very uncomfortable for him from the very start. Richeson coaxed a walk to load the bases, and Charlie Pratt (10) came in to run for him. Chase Cole (11) then laced a 2-1 pitch to right field for a single to score Leitner.
The Tigers weren’t finished. The bases were still loaded with no outs, and Douglas stepped to the plate and delivered a single to center to plate Pryor and make the score 5-3. After a strikeout, Cameron Beck (12) lined a rocket back to the pitcher that Brown somehow caught. Luckily, Pratt made it back to third base before being doubled up. He would later be able to trot home when Collin Mann (11) walked to force in a run to make it 5-4. Matt Rosen (11) then had, what looked to be at the time, the biggest hit of the game when he roped a single to center to score both Cole and Douglas and give the Tigers the lead 6-5.
After the huge inning, Festus needed only six outs to take the title. And the way Richeson was pitching, fans had to like the Tigers’ chances. The bottom of the sixth started well for Festus with the first two batters being retired. Then Brendan Hovis, the number nine hitter, walked. That brought up Tristan Brown…yes, the same Tristan Brown that had just given up six runs in the top of the inning. Richeson worked Brown tough and looked like he may have struck him out to end the inning, but the umpire didn’t see it that way. Eventually, Brown lifted a high fly to left center that left the ballpark for a home run that gave the Trojans a 7-6 lead heading into the seventh inning.
Now Potosi only needed three outs and they would celebrate a district championship. But the Tigers would not go quietly. With one out in the final frame, Richeson walked. Pratt came in to run, and Cole came through again with a single to right center. Pratt sped to third and made it safely, while Cole slid into second on the throw to third. As if to replay the inning before, Douglas took the first pitch he saw and singled to right. This time both Pratt and Cole scored to return the lead back to the Tigers, 8-7. But there was more to come. With two outs, Beck sent a long fly to left-center field that glanced off the center fielder’s glove that allowed Douglas to score and make it 9-7. To add insult to injury for the Trojans, Beck stole third base, and then, when Mann walked, the catcher tried to pick off Beck at third, threw wildly, and Beck trotted home making it 10-7.
And as valiantly as Potosi had fought the entire game, the wind had left their sails. They managed a runner in the bottom of the seventh, but when Beck squeezed a soft pop up into his glove at short, the game was over, the celebration was on, and the Tigers had their first district title since 2012.
Needless to say, head coach Jeff Montgomery was pleased with his team’s fortitude. “This team has some confidence and fight right now that you just can’t really put into words,” he said. “If you tried to explain to someone what happened in this game, you just couldn’t do it. Anyone that was here saw one of the best games they have ever seen. We were fortunate to win.”
So how does a team maintain its focus after a game like this? “We just take it one game at a time,” said Montgomery. “We told the players to enjoy this one…they wanted this so badly. We’re going to have some good practices prior to our next game. I’m just really happy for our kids, our parents, and our program.”
It’s been a good athletic year for Montgomery. This is his second district title in the 2016-17 season. His softball team won a district championship in the fall.
In the game, Leitner and Douglas each had three hits…Douglas drove home three runs. Cole had two hits and two RBI. Beck, Mann, Pryor, Richeson and Rosen each had a hit, while Rosen drove home two, and Richeson, Mann, and Beck had one RBI.
Richeson was the winning pitcher, going five innings, striking out five, walking three and giving up two runs on two hits.
So the baseball Tigers head to Sikeston on Tuesday for the sectional game. Sikeston is 14-6 and won its first district title since 2007 with a ten inning 8-7 victory over Cape Notre Dame. Festus is 13-9 on the season. Game time is set for noon. Needless to say, the Tigers hope to keep the momentum going. One thing is for sure…they won’t give in until the final out is recorded.