The Southwest Missouri All-Stars were seemingly on the verge of replicating some of the magic they had the year before, albeit in a different age group.
But despite taking a midgame lead in the semifinal round of the Premier Baseball 16-Under Championship on Sunday afternoon, the All-Stars were delivered a fifth-inning haymaker by Perfect Timing Grey and never recovered in a 7-4 loss at Joplin High School.
The All-Stars, after going 3-0 in Championship Pool A to advance to the tournament’s semifinals as the top seed, finished the week with a 5-2 record. It marked the second straight summer that a Southwest Missouri team competed in a championship bracket on the tournament’s final day. The All-Stars won the championship in the 17/18 Division last year.
“I think the area of Southwest Missouri was again represented very well,” said Southwest Missouri coach Kevin Burgi, who is also the McDonald County High School coach. “We showed that this area of the state plays very good baseball and we have some very good players. It’s a testament to the high school coaches and the players in the area.”
Perfect Timing Grey fell 7-1 to Perfect Timing Red in the championship game later in the day.
The All-Stars had a 4-3 lead before Perfect Timing Grey erupted with four runs in the top of the fifth. A bases-loaded walk opened the scoring in the pivotal frame before Gabe Reed roped a three-run double to right-center field, giving Grey the three-run advantage that remained the rest of the way.
“I thought we were swinging at the right pitches and did a great job of elevating the ball with the wind that was blowing in our favor,” Perfect Timing Grey coach Phillip Cebuhar said. “They kind of put us on the ropes in the inning before. So those were some big runs. Gabe Reed did an excellent job of delivering that big hit we needed.”
“When it comes down to it, there were some plays out there to be made and we just couldn’t find a way to make the right pitch or right play when we needed to,” Burgi said. “We relied on it all week, but it just wasn’t there today.”
The All-Stars plated three runs on four hits to go up 4-3 in the bottom of the fourth, an inning that was highlighted by RBI singles by Tanner Woodruff, Hobbs Campbell and Bodee Carlson.
Southwest Missouri tallied nine hits with just two coming in the final three innings.
"We swung it well all tournament, but the Perfect Timing guys just did a great job of keeping us guessing," Burgi said. "It just kind of happens some days. But tip your cap to those pitchers they threw at us today. They did a fantastic job."
Cole Martin paced the hitting for Southwest Missouri with a 3-for-4 showing, while Byler Reither went 2 for 3.
All-Stars starting pitcher Justin McReynolds surrendered three runs and four hits in four innings of work. Reither surrendered four runs in the fifth before Ethan Guilford shut out Perfect Timing in the final two frames.
Grey relief pitcher Sabra Jeffus shut out the All-Stars in the final three frames to earn the win, striking out two and surrendering two hits. Starter Dylan Hughes went four complete innings and allowed four runs on seven hits.
In the other championship games on Sunday, the Rawlings Tigers defeated Perfect Timing Blue 11-3 at Wendell Redden Stadium to win the 17/18 Division, and Perfect Timing Blue defeated the St. Louis Prospects 3-2 at Joe Becker Stadium to win the 15-Under Division.