Reversal of call helps Falcons

Call it a walk-off umpire’s reversal.

After Blair Oaks head coach Harv Antle came out to argue a potential game-changing call in the bottom of the seventh inning, the two umpires got together and reversed the decision to preserve a 6-5 victory for the Falcons against the Blue Springs Wildcats in the opening game of the Capital City Invitational on Friday afternoon at Vivion Field.

Blue Springs’ Jeremy Lufft stepped to the plate with the tying run on second and two outs. He hit a chopper to Blair Oaks third baseman James Reinkemeyer, whose throw to first was a little off-line. First baseman Logan Gratz attempted to tag Lufft, but the latter was ruled safe by the field umpire. That brought out Antle, who asked the umpires to get together. After a brief discussion, the umpires ruled Gratz did make the tag, ending the ball game.

“You appreciate the umpires getting together,” Antle said. “… That’s why you’ve got two umpires out there. Angles change and one guy will see something that the other guy didn’t. The bottom line is, and they’ll tell you that, their job is to get it right. When it goes against you, you don’t like it, but when it works for you, it’s a good thing. We caught a break there and were fortunate at the end they got it right.

“By the same token, we don’t feel like we stole anything. We feel like we won the ball game and earned the victory for the things we did throughout the whole game, not just what happened at the end.”

Blair Oaks held a 6-1 advantage before Blue Springs’ late rally.

Blair Oaks picked up a couple unearned runs in the first inning to take a 2-0 lead. Hayden Haney’s RBI single in the second inning made it 3-0.

Blue Springs got one back in the bottom half before the Falcons exploded for three runs in the top of the fourth.

An infield single from Haney ended with a throwing error on Blue Springs that allowed a run to score. Logan Gratz then added a two-run single to center.

Two terrific defensive plays by Blair Oaks up to that point kept Blue Springs at bay.

Reinkemeyer caught a line drive and dove into third base to complete a double play in the bottom of the second when Blue Springs had the bases loaded, nobody out and already one run in. Logan Bax ended a threat in the third inning after corralling a wild pitch that hit off the backstop, racing back to home plate and diving to tag out a runner attempting to score.

“I thought we played really good defense early,” Antle said.

Yet it was the defense that allowed Blue Springs to get back in the game.

Blue Springs scored an unearned run in the fifth and two more in the sixth to get within 6-4. Three errors between those two innings did the trick.

“I feel like we let them back in the ball game,” Antle said. “Truth be told, they were probably fortunate to be in the game.”

Then came the seventh, when a single, a hit batter, a sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly led to the controversial ending.

“The guys did a good job of holding things together and picking each other up and it turns out we had just enough at the end,” Antle said.

Bryce Pritchett got the win, tossing six innings and allowing four runs (one earned) on eight hits with two strikeouts. He stranded 10 runners.

“I need to go back and look at his physical form and see if his middle name is Houdini because he was really an escape artist today,” Antle said. “He pitched out of some jams and made some pitches when he needed to. … Bryce was outstanding to get us deep into the ball game.”

“Anybody you beat in this tournament is a quality win,” Antle said. “It’s one of, if not the best tournament in central Missouri. … We’re just going to go out and take our best shot and see what happens.”

III

The nightcap was just as wild.

Blair Oaks rallied from a five-run deficit to beat Lutheran St. Charles 12-6.

Seth Eskens hit a go-ahead three-run homer and Logan Gratz added a two-run shot as part of a seven-run fourth inning.

“That’s the good thing about this team,” Gratz said. “It doesn’t matter the count, it doesn’t matter how many runs we’re down. We have the bats, we have the talent and we can do a lot of things.”

Lutheran St. Charles scored five runs in the bottom of the first inning off Clayton Graessle, making his varsity debut.

But Graessle settled down, shutting down the Cougars for the next three innings.

“We got in a big hole, but he stemmed the tide and got us into the later innings,” Antle said.

Ryan Wilbers got Blair Oaks on the board with an RBI double in the second. An unearned run made iet 5-2.

Then came the seven-run fourth.

Logan Bax delivered an RBI double to make it 5-3 before Eskens’ home run barely cleared wall in left to put the Falcons ahead 6-5.

“I really didn’t feel it off the bat it felt so good,” Eskens said. “I knew it was gone right when I hit it. I started trotting.”

Gratz followed a few batters later with a monster shot to left.

“I just squared it and it was one of those feelings,” he said. “You don’t even feel the bat. It’s a great feeling.”

Blair Oaks got a pair of unearned runs in the fifth to make it 11-5. Lutheran St. Charles got one back in the bottom of the inning before the Falcons capped the scoring with a run in the seventh.

Blair Oaks (10-0) plays Jefferson City at 11:30 a.m. today at Vivion Field with a chance to move on to the championship game.

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