With an early 5-2 lead against Camdenton, the Jefferson City baseball team appeared like it might have broken out of the late-season funk that had plagued it for the last two weeks.
Instead, it turned out to be more of the same. And this time it ended the season.
Sixth-seeded Camdenton rallied from a 6-3 deficit with four runs in the seventh inning to stun the third-seeded Jays 7-6 in the first round of the Class 5 District 9 Tournament on Saturday at Vivion Field.
"It's been frustrating the last couple of weeks," Jefferson City coach Brian Ash said. "We played good enough early on, I think we thought we were just going to flip out of it and everything was going to work out. Unfortunately, it kind of carried over today when it mattered the most."
The Jays (20-7) ranked fourth in Class 5 in the most recent rankings, hit a wall late in the year losing three of their last five games entering play Saturday.
They made it four of six as Camdenton avenged an earlier 9-0 loss to Jefferson City.
Camdenton's Bryan Hoffman, the ninth-place hitter, led off the seventh with a single. After a flyout to left, the floodgates opened. A double by Jacob Decker put runners at second and third with no outs. After a walk, Cory Simpson hit a two-run double to left off reliever Corey Beard that landed fair by inches to make the score 6-5. After a strikeout by Beard, Jacob Voorhees floated a single to center to give Camdenton the lead.
"It's one of those things where I think the kid was going to swing no matter what," Ash said. "He hit a little flare in the outfield. There wasn't much we could do. It wasn't that Corey made a bad pitch. The kid flicked it out there and they were able to score two runs."
Alex Johnson led off the bottom of the seventh with a single and went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Hayden Strobel. But he stayed there, as a grounder to short and a strikeout ended Jefferson City's season.
"Our big thing is we try to never quit," Camdenton coach Matt Moulder said. "You keep clawing and you never say die and you give yourself a chance. We had the right part of the order coming up."
Camdenton (10-9), which advances to Monday's district semifinal against Helias (6:30 p.m., Vivion Field), jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first thanks to a home run by Tyler Cunningham.
The Jays responded with five runs of their own in the bottom of the inning. After back-to-back walks, Brenden Ogletree singled home a run to make it 2-1. Gabe Marcantonio and Sam Atkinson followed with back-to-back doubles to put the Jays up 4-2.
But Atkinson was tagged out at second base as he was coming off the field for a courtesy runner, as time had not been granted by the umpire.
Rylie Klosterman hit a home run four pitches later that would have made the score 6-2. It turned out to be a big run the Jays never got.
Ash said he called time on the play, but he thinks the umpire did not hear him.
"The next thing I know I look up, and tag, they called the guy out," Ash said. "I'm just dumbfounded by it."
Ash added: "Looking back now, that's a huge play."
The momentum from the first inning didn't carry over for the Jays, who didn't have another hit until a solo home run by Beard in the fifth made it 6-3.
"A lot of 1-2-3 innings," Ash said. "Not putting pressure on Camdenton at all. We're kind of bailing them out. Looking back, maybe do a couple things different. We got in sleep mode for a little bit there."
The Lakers nearly rallied in the sixth when the first two reached base. But Cameron Carroll came on in relief of starter Steven Coots to get three outs on three pitches.
But it only delayed the inevitable as the Lakers got their four runs one inning later.
Beard took the loss for the Jays in relief as he allowed two runs on two hits in 2/3 of an inning. Coots allowed three runs (one earned) in five plus innings as the Jays committed four errors. Carroll was charged with the other two runs.
"I don't know how many people would have thought we'd finish the year 20-7, so there is something to be proud of," Ash said. "I am proud of them. The seniors did a great job. To be honest, we might have exceeded expectations at times. To say we'd be 20-7 coming into this year, I don't think anyone would have thought that."