Camdenton and Hillcrest were locked in an Ozark Conference defensive battle Friday night.
After six innings of play a single run had yet to cross the plate, but it was Senior Night at Camdenton and the Lakers were not about to let the last home game for 11 players end on a sour note as they knocked off Hillcrest 1-0 in walk-off fashion.
“It feels like every year we have a game like that and they are all fun,” Camdenton senior Parker Stidham said. “All of us out here have been playing the game together since we were little kids and it is just always fun to come out and compete because we live it, breathe it, eat it and sleep it so it is just the best time.”
The Lakers were held to just four hits all day on a group of singles from seniors Nathan Pasley and Austin Stamper, Haiden Randall and Stidham. However, Stamper’s leadoff single in the seventh inning ignited a spark for Camdenton and they capitalized.
After Stamper’s hit, junior Austin Carter came in to pinch run and advanced to second base on a wild pitch. Randall proceeded to draw a walk and both runners advanced to scoring position on another wild pitch. A groundout followed with Carter being thrown out at home, but sophomore Riley Stidham came in to pinch run at third and then Pasley stepped up to the plate. Pasley swung and missed for strike three, but the ball was dropped and an overthrow by the catcher to first base brought Stidham home and the Lakers proceeded to celebrate.
“I don’t know what to say. It is intense when you go up there expecting to do something big and are trying to do whatever you can to get the team a win,” Pasley said of the play. “It was unexpected. Coach tells us to run it out no matter what so I just did that, the catcher overthrew it and we scored the winning run.”
It was an unusual way to pick up a win to say the least, but Camdenton coach Bryce Durnin was proud of the way his guys executed and the scoreboard still showed that the Lakers were on top.
“I think the coolest thing is that they came together and we had a plan in that last inning that was a little different than the other innings,” Durnin stated. “They bought into it, they came together and they executed it. It was not the prettiest thing at the end of the game, but sometimes that is what happens. That is baseball and you take it.”
A big reason the Hillcrest offense remained dormant Friday night was the arm of the elder Stidham as he threw a complete game shutout allowing six hits and just two walks while striking out a total of 11 Hornet batters. The senior had a similar game last week against Jefferson City where he struck out nine in a tough 2-1 defeat, but he would not be denied the win this time around.
“It was about a pretty similar game. In Jeff City I had a curve ball that was working really well and tonight it was my slider,” Stidham pointed out. “I just kept them on their toes with the slider and fastball. That slider breaks late and breaks hard so it is a hard pitch to hit no matter who you are and if you can spot a fastball it is hard to hit as well. Just throwing strikes and commanding the game is all you can do and it has been working for me this season.”
Hillcrest had several opportunities to score with runners in scoring position on four separate occasions, but did not have an answer. The Hornets even had the bases loaded in the fourth inning, but Stidham ended the threat with a strike out on a full count.
“It does not matter the situation on the field. Coach teaches us to catch the ball on the rubber, which means you throw a pitch and you get right back on the rubber with a poker face and ready to throw again,” Stidham said. “I just try to live that.”
Was the senior prepared to go back out for the eighth?
“Oh yeah,” Stidham said. “I have a pretty strenuous pregame workout that I do to stretch out and get my arm ready. My arm feels perfectly fine right now and it feels like I can go seven more innings.”
Durnin attended a district seeding meeting earlier in the day and the coach said the Lakers were strategically placed because nobody is looking forward to the prospect of facing the arm of Stidham in the first round.
“He is getting better every game,” Durnin said of his pitcher. “I had my seeding meeting with probably the toughest district in the state of Missouri and nobody wants to play us and face Parker in game one. We spent an extra 20 to 30 minutes debating who we were going to play and that is just respect for Parker and what he can potentially do to somebody.”
Time will soon tell if the Lakers will be firing on all cylinders when district action gets underway.
“Last Friday we played probably the best game we’ve played all season and maybe all throughout high school at Jeff City and we came out and played almost the exact same game here tonight against another good team,” Stidham noted. “Winning like this just springs you forward so much. It is such a good feeling to know you have another win under your belt and are that much closer to the playoffs. When you have pitching like we do, it is just going to be hard to beat us if we come out and play like we can every time.”
Durnin is certainly hoping his 11 seniors will want to create a few more good memories before the final out of their high school careers.
“It can sometimes be a double-edged sword because you have the experience, the strength and the camaraderie that they have from playing together so much,” Durnin said of the senior class. “But at the same time they have a lot of things going on with graduation and plans for next year. It is just a matter of keeping both feet in our program right now because we have work to do and that is the toughest thing.
“As long as they are able to do that, compete and give it their all until the very last out whenever that is, they’ll have fun and they’ll be happy with the result,” the coach added.
Camdenton (8-14, 3-6 Ozark Conference) was scheduled to visit Helias on Monday night and the Lakers will wrap up the regular season with a trip to Versailles on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.