Lakers take 7-game win streak into district playoffs

It was Senior Night at Camdenton on Tuesday and Nolan Moriearty did not want to disappoint in one of his final home games as a Laker.

As fate would have it, the senior was faced with a full-count, two outs and his team trailing Versailles by a single run in the fourth inning when he proceeded to blast through a 2-RBI single to put Camdenton up for good and help the Lakers capture a 7-4 win over the Tigers.

Moriearty, who started to make his way towards first base after thinking he drew a walk, was called back for strike two. Good thing, too, as he did not hesitate to swing on the game-changing next pitch.

“I got a really low strike so I just came back, powered through it, hit one in the gap and we scored two runs off it,” the senior said of the play after finishing the night with three hits. “It was a good feeling, an awesome night and definitely a good win. We started out a little flat, but ended it strong.”

And that is precisely what Camdenton has done over the past three games in the midst of a 7-game win streak heading into the district playoffs. Facing some early deficits, the Lakers have bounced back and found a way to be the team ahead when the final out is recorded.

“It is awesome, especially coming off a couple games where nobody thought we’d win or expected us to win them,” Moriearty said of the streak. “Winning those games, I think it proves a point that we have what it takes to be a high-caliber team. We don’t always have the most talent or anything, but we play scrappy good baseball which gets us to win games.”

Versailles took the early advantage as Kaden McGinnis scored on a wild pitch in the first and Taylor Dobbins smacked one of his three hits for an RBI-double in the second to put the Tigers up 2-0.

Then, Camdenton responded on a sacrifice-fly RBI from Riley Stidham and an RBI-single from Garrett Stamper to tie the game back up in the bottom of the second.

Dobbins’ bat stayed hot for Versailles as the senior put the Tigers back up 4-2 in the third on a 2-RBI double, but it was the final time any Tiger would touch home plate. Dobbins later blasted a triple in the fifth, but was called out after it was ruled that he failed to touch second base. McGinnis had two hits and Kade Marriott also had a hit, but no other Tiger managed to get in scoring position the rest of the way.

“He has been swinging the bat pretty well. He went through a little lull there during the middle of the season, but he is swinging it well and the other guys feed off him,” Versailles coach Jason Ollison said of the senior slugger. “When he starts going, we start going.

“I’m not sure what happened out there at second base... We are on the road and sometimes that stuff happens,” Ollison said of the unusual call in the fifth inning, “but I was proud of my guys because they did not quit. We did not give up on it, fought through it and kept playing.”

Facing another two-run deficit, Camdenton stayed calm as the other senior Austin Carter put up a sacrifice-fly RBI in the fourth to pull the team within one before Moriearty’s big hit. The Lakers added insurance runs in the fifth with a sacrifice-fly RBI from Dylan Thompson and a fielder’s choice RBI from Stamper. Andrew DiBello also had two hits to keep the offense flowing.

Moriearty started on the mound and the pitcher worked the first two and one-third innings, allowing two earned runs on three hits while walking two and striking out one. Cole Linch took care of the rest and got the win, allowing one earned run on three hits while walking one and striking out three.

For Versailles, Andy Clemens got the start and took the loss allowing five hits and four earned runs with a walk in three innings of work. It may have been a tough day on the hill, but Ollison is confident in the hurler.

“We put Andy out there against Iberia the other night and he did a real good job of shutting them down. He is deceptive enough and throws enough strikes that he can do some things,” Ollison stated. “He does not overpower anybody, but when he hits his spots he can get guys to chase.

“A couple of plays here and there and you are going against Class 5 athletes and that is a little bit of it too, but I thought we played real well.”

Ollison said playing well has started to become a trend and improvement has come from repetition and just simply being able to get on the field on a consistent basis. Versailles (3-18, 0-7 Tri-County Conference) will fight to keep playing a little longer in a Class 3 first-round district battle with Father Tolton Friday night in California at 5 p.m.

“I was confident all year they’d turn it around and here in the last couple of weeks we are starting to show signs that we understand what to do,” Ollison said.

“From where we were a month ago, we’ve made big strides... We are in a district where anyone can win it and we have a shot to upset some people if we come out there and just play baseball. If we just go out and have fun, we are going to be fine,” he added. “I’m kind of regretting that the season is going to have to come to an end here before long because these guys are starting to play well and it is getting enjoyable again. I love these guys and am really happy we are starting to turn it around.”

It has been a while since Camdenton (17-9, 3-6 Ozark Conference) has finished the regular season with a favorable record and Durnin attributes part of it to the example set by Carter and Moriearty.

“That, to me, is a testament to their leadership and them buying in to what we’ve done as a team and what we decided to do as a group and a whole,” the coach said. “We have three, sometimes four sophomores starting in addition to a handful of juniors and sometimes seniors can get bent out of shape because they have these young guys around, but they’ve accepted them from the beginning.”

Now, the Lakers will look to ride the momentum of a 7-game win streak into Class 5 first-round district battle with Jefferson City at home on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

“It does not always have to be pretty, but as long as they always get it done, I think that kind of says a lot about the character of the team,” Camdenton coach Bryce Durnin said of yet another comeback win. “It is good to be going seven (wins) in a row to districts, but we have to have three good days of practice. Jefferson City is the defending state champion. We know it, everyone in the state knows it and we got them first.

“We have nothing to lose, but we have to go play with a sense of urgency and with a sense that we belong in that same field ready to go.”