Case Sanderson pitched strong after a shaky start, and Seth Stover drove in six runs as the Midwest Mustangs downed the Southwest Missouri All-Stars 13-8 Saturday in a 16-under AABC Big Stick Challenge quarterfinal game at the Joplin High School Complex.
The top-seeded Mustangs, who are 4-0 in the tournament, play the Sioux Falls Cyclones White in a semifinal game at 11:30 a.m. today at Wendell Redden Stadium inside the Joplin Athletic Complex. The winner advances to the championship game at 2 p.m.
The Southwest Missouri All-Stars, who lost in the semifinals of last week’s Premier Baseball 16-Under Championship, were 2-3 this week, and the first four games were all one-run contests.
“I was very proud of them to come together for the second week in a row,” coach Aaron Snow said. “The kids coming from all the different programs, I was very thankful to get to coach them. It was a very fun weekend.”
Sanderson, a left-hander from Nevada, yielded three runs in the first inning, but he allowed only one hit in the next three innings and finished with 10 strikeouts and three walks in 4 2/3 innings. He fanned seven consecutive batters during a stretch from the second through fourth innings.
“He did a good job battling,” Mustangs coach Cole Sanderson said. “He didn’t really get completely loose until after the first inning. The beginning of the game he was missing low and wasn’t driving with his legs. After that he really made some adjustments and was throwing the ball well. He kind of found his breaking ball, too, and he was able to locate three pitches.”
“He was really good, especially after that first inning,” Snow said. “He settled in and had all three pitches. He was really tough to hit. He had good run on his fastball, could throw a changeup on any count, kept the breaking ball down. He has a really good quality arm.”
Stover, from Columbus, went 3-for-3 and reached base four times from the eighth spot in the batting order. He hit a two-run single in the first inning, two-run double in the third, RBI triple in the fourth and walked with the bases loaded in the sixth.
“We like to think everyone in our lineup competes and has a good approach,” Coach Sanderson said. “That allows us to be able to do things. There is no real break for the pitcher against our lineup.”
Logan Myers added two hits and two RBI to the Mustangs’ nine-hit attack, and he pitched the final 2 1/3 innings.
The All-Stars had four hits — a single and RBI triple by River Brill from Neosho and run-scoring singles by Eric Fitch and Aiden Brock, both from Webb City.
Brock’s hit came in the first inning as the All-Stars grabbed a 3-0 lead.
“They’re a good club, and getting up 3-0 we felt pretty good about it,” Snow said. “But man, (Sanderson) settled in and really started working the zone.”
But the lead didn’t last long as the Mustangs tallied four in the bottom of the inning, capped by Stover’s single.
“We loved how after the first inning when they put it on us a little bit that we came right back,” Coach Sanderson said. “We got some bunts down. We ran the bases. We probably played the best brand of Mustangs baseball that we could have. If we could have kept that same mentality throughout the whole game ... I think we let them back in it with too many opportunities.”
The Mustangs added a run in the second, five in the third and one in the fourth for an 11-3 cushion. But the All-Stars extended the game with three in the fifth and two in the sixth to climb within 11-8 before the Mustangs scored twice on bases-loaded walks in the bottom of the sixth.
“That was the (story) all weekend,” Snow said. “We got down, got down and would chip our way back in and have a big inning. I told them if we could string a few of those together, we’d be pretty good.”