An improbable postseason run came to a close for the Lamar baseball team on Tuesday.
The Tigers, after finishing the regular season one game above .500 and then claiming the Class 3 District 13 title as the tournamernt’s No. 4 seed, suffered a 15-3 run-rule loss to Blair Oaks in a sectional game at the Joplin High School baseball field.
The loss ended Lamar’s season with a 12-9 record, and it also snapped a three-game postseason win streak that enabled the team to make its first state tournament appearance of the past decade.
“I basically told our kids after the game that I couldn’t be prouder of them,” Lamar coach Thad Lundine said. “I’ve had a lot of people in the past couple weeks ask me about what makes a team special. I don’t feel very old, but I’ve been at this a while with 22 years of coaching, and I’d call this group a dream team. Not a dream team in the sense that they were going to go out and win world championships and things of that sort, but they showed a lot of heart, showed a lot of desire and showed a lot of faith in each other. That’s something we haven’t had on this baseball team in a long time — probably since I got here.”
On Tuesday, however, a youthful Lamar team comprising just a handful of juniors and seniors ran into a hot Blair Oaks club that erupted for nine runs and seven hits in the first inning alone.
The Falcons (20-11) managed to build a 13-0 lead by the end of the second inning and then put together one-run showings in the third and the fourth to earn the five-inning run-rule.
“We didn’t necessarily put it all together today, but we only had three kids who were juniors or seniors out there,” Lundine said. “You play a team that can hit like (Blair Oaks), it takes a lot of maturity to be able to handle stuff like that. We’re learning, though. We had a lot of sophomores and freshmen on this team, and they’ll learn from this experience and understand the maturity it takes to win here. Hopefully they’ll keep working hard and put those things together as the next season approaches.”
The Falcons (20-11) benefited from 15 hits and four Lamar errors as they punched their ticket to the state quarterfinals for the first time since 2011.
“We’re pretty confident on offense because we’ve been swinging the bats pretty well,” Blair Oaks coach Mike DeMilia said. “We just got good pitches to hit and made good swings. And when they had a couple of mistakes out in the field early, we took advantage of those to really get us in good position. So it was obviously the offensive start we were looking for.”
And the offensive onslaught was highlighted by Blair Oaks 9-hole hitter Lane Libbert, who started the game with a grand slam in the first inning and a solo home run in the second. He also drew a walk in his third plate appearance and finished with a team-high five RBI.
“We have guys who can hit throughout our batting order, so teams don’t really get much of a break on defense against us,” DeMilia said. “Lane showed today that he has the ability to get into some pitches even though he’s hitting ninth for us. He’s just a sophomore too, so even I wasn’t expecting him to go do what he did in those first two at-bats.”
After being put in a 13-0 hole through the first two innings, the Tigers stopped the bleeding temporarily in the third with a three-run showing on three hits.
Wyatt Hull sparked the Lamar offense on a single with one out, and he later scored from second base off an errant throw on a pickoff attempt. Another throwing error committed by Blair Oaks on a double-play attempt scored Alex Burgess from third, and then Rylan Wooldridge capped the scoring in the inning with an RBI double hit in the gap in left-center to make it 13-3.
Lamar’s three runs in the third ended up being the only blemishes against Blair Oaks pitcher Parker Bax, who tossed a complete game and limited the Tigers to five hits in five innings.
The Falcons continue their postseason campaign today against Lawson, which claimed a 7-6 sectional win over Summit Christian.