CARTHAGE, Mo. — It was a memorable day for Carthage coach Luke Bordewick, who watched his Tigers rally from a 4-1 deficit with two innings to play to earn a 5-4 walk-off win over Carl Junction in the championship game of the Bill O’Dell Tournament on Friday at Carl Lewton Stadium.
“It is awesome to win our home tournament,” Bordewick said. “There are a lot of good teams in it. We are fortunate to come away with a win. We are going to hang this plaque in the locker room.”
While the championship win in itself was special, this was also the first matchup between Bordewick, who is in his first season as the coach for the Tigers, and Carl Junction coach Jake Stevenson. Why is that significant? Well, both Bordewick and Stevenson played together at Pittsburg State from 2012-15.
“I love Jake,” Bordewick said. “I know his teams always compete and play hard. This was definitely fun, but it’s not something we put too much stake in. … This was really cool. It was neat for us to square off against each other. His team is always competing and they play hard for him. This was a great game.”
“Luke is a good friend of mine,” Stevenson said. “Anytime you get a chance to come back after you play college ball and compete against one of your former teammates, it’s a pleasure. To see him get into coaching, he will be good for kids. To be able to compete against somebody who is a joy to be around, it’s a pleasure for sure.”
ON THE MOUND
In his first-career start on the bump, Carthage senior Wil McCombs earned the win after allowing four runs, two earned, on six hits, no walks and eight strikeouts in a complete-game seven-inning effort.
“There are going to be a lot more of them, apparently,” Bordewick said with a laugh when asked about McCombs’ first-career start. “He threw well. I told him early on he was going to need to throw both his fastball and curveball for strikes. … We started pitching backwards from the jump, getting strike one and the working back to the fastball. It worked and kept them off-balance for the most part.”
Kyler Perry earned the start for CJ and took a no-decision after allowing one run on three hits, four walks and two strikeouts in four innings. Dylan Eck allowed two runs on four hits, two walks and two strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings. Hunter Cantrell took the loss after allowing two runs on two hits, two walks and a strikeout in 2/3 of an inning.
Carl Junction (9-3) reached the scoreboard first with two runs crossing the plate in the top of the first. After the Bulldogs scored on an error by Carthage (4-5), CJ pushed the lead to 2-0 on a sacrifice fly from Dylan Eck to score Drew Beyer.
Carthage’s Clay Kinder led off the last of the third with a single to center field before moving to second on a sac bunt from Caden Kabance and third on a single by Grant Collier. Kinder scored moments later on an errant pickoff throw by Carl Junction to cut the lead in half, 2-1.
The Bulldogs answered right back in the top of the fourth when Eck tripled to left-center field with one out and came around to score on a two-out double to left-center by Perry to push the lead back to two runs, 3-1.
Carl Junction added to the margin after Cole Stewart and Carson Johnson had back-to-back singles to lead off the fifth to put runners on the corners. Beyer followed with a sac fly to center to push the lead to 4-1. Noah Southern doubled to the gap in right-center to put runners on second and third, but McCombs earned back to back strikeouts to end the threat.
“Wil has never started a high school game as a pitcher,” Bordewick said. “And he said, ‘Coach, I want to pitch.’ I said, ‘Giddyup, let’s go.’ It’s all about limiting their production. They are going to score their runs, we just had to limit it. He got out of a couple of big jams.”
After a scoreless fourth inning and stranding two runners in the fifth, Carthage started the sixth with consecutive strikeouts before a single up the middle from Sylas Browning and back to back walks loaded the bases. Helping himself out, McCombs singled to center to score two runs and trim the lead to 4-3 with one inning to play.
“I kept telling them to stay with it because we were knocking on the door so many times,” Bordewick said. “Then in the sixth inning, our senior catcher, well our senior pitcher today, Wil McCombs—and I don’t think I’d want anyone else in the box in that situation—pieced one up and took it right up the middle to score two runs. That was huge for us.”
After the Bulldogs went down in order in the top of the seventh, the Tigers led off the bottom of the inning with a walk from Kaden Kralicek. Kanen Vogt moved him to second with a sac bunt before Logan Carmickle singled to put runners at the corners. After Carmickle stole second, Max Templeman was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Browning worked a 3-2 count before singling to left to plate the Kralicek and tying the game at 4-4. In the next at-bat, Kinder drew a hit-by-pitch to force the winning run home, walk-off style.
IN THE BOX
McCombs had two hits and two RBI, while Collier and Browning each went 2-for-4. Browning scored once and drove in one. Kinder finished with one hit and one RBI.
Southern led Carl Junction at the plate with two hits and a run scored. Johnson, Eck, Perry and Stewart all recorded hits. Eck drove in one and scored a run, while Stewart scored a run and Perry picked up an RBI.
Carthage hosts Webb City (10-2) on Monday.
Carl Junction hosts Carthage on Tuesday.