LEADWOOD — A demoralizing first-round loss to Grandview in last year’s district tournament only served as motivation for the West County baseball team to regain its perennial state-playoff status in 2009.
With their seniors leading the way on Tuesday, the Bulldogs responded to the challenge with one of their most balanced efforts of the season, routing Steelville 10-0 in an abbreviated Class 2, District 7 championship game.
West County (19-5) produced several quality defensive plays and made solid contact at the plate with only one strikeout while notching its ninth district title in school history.
Infielder Cody Watson, who missed his entire junior season due to injury, lined his fourth home run over the left-center wall in the opening frame, and the Bulldogs seized total command with five runs in the third.
Steelville starter Colin Rice issued his third walk of the inning to Brandon Turner with the bases loaded, and senior Coty Shannon followed with a big two-run double on a full-count offering.
Turner highlighted his 2-for-3 day and gave West County an 8-0 advantage with a two-run single after a throwing error prolonged the fourth. Trevor Kean finished 1-for-2 and scored when Justin Lashley singled in the fifth.
West County will host the sectional round on Monday against the winner of District 8, where top-seeded host Iberia has reached the finals. The Bulldogs stand two wins away from a final-four return to Springfield.
“We had to refocus this year,” said West County coach John Simily. “Two years ago everything broke right for us and (the players) saw what they could do. Then last year they saw how bad it could get.”
“Kingston battled back against us yesterday (in the semifinals), and it showed our guys that winning doesn’t come easy,” added Simily. “We have to play to win, and today we didn’t let up.”
The sizable margin was plenty of support for senior hurler Tyler Stacy (5-3), who recorded three strikeouts and walked two batters in a three-hitter. His supporting cast helped to preserve the shutout in the fourth inning.
Watson made an outstanding backhand grab behind third base to retire standout hitter Jacob Becker. The play proved timely for the Bulldogs as the next three Cardinals reached base.
Stacy escaped danger, however, when Jason Blunt smashed a line drive toward Lashley at second base. Lashley alertly fired back to first base and doubled off Ian Whitson to end the inning.
“I had a feeling we would swing the bats well, and our defense made plays behind Tyler (Stacy),” said Simily. “Our seniors have been great all year. When those guys hit, we’ll be hard to beat if we field the baseball.”
Outfielder Kyle Nettles finished 2-for-4 with a double and three runs scored, and crossed home plate to end the game when Turner singled for his fourth RBI. Catcher Michael Harp added a sacrifice fly.
Tommy Kirkland, Blunt and Rice each singled for Steelville (12-5), which had two other runners caught stealing.
Steelville 000 000 – 0 3 3
West County 105 211 – 10 9 1
WP – Stacy 6i 0r 3h 3k 2bb 2hb.
LP – Rice 3 1/3i 7r 5er 5h 0k 4bb.
Steelville – Blunt 1-2, Rice 1-3, Kirkland 1-3.
West County – B Turner 2-3, Nettles 2-4, Kean 1-2, Lashley 1-2, Stacy 1-3, Watson 1-3, Shannon 1-3. 2b – Nettles, Shannon. HR – Watson (4).