The Jefferson City Post 5 Seniors are hosting the Missouri American Legion Zone 1 Tournament, so there wasn't a whole lot on the line Wednesday night when they hosted Columbia Post 202 in what would have been the District 8 Tournament.
Jefferson City scored twice in the bottom of the sixth inning to claim the district bragging rights with a 5-3 win against Columbia at the American Legion Post 5 Sports Complex.
Post 5 automatically receives a spot in the zone tournament as the host team. Since Columbia is the only other team in District 8, it automatically receives the district's bid in the zone tournament.
As a result, Wednesday's game was more of a tuneup.
"I keep trying to tell these guys we need to start hitting our stride as a team in this last week," Post 5 coach Curt Vaughn said. "We always say the Fike Tournament in Blue Springs is when you want to start playing your best baseball, so you treat that like postseason."
Vaughn was a little frustrated with the team's energy level at times, noting there wasn't much urgency in Post 5's play.
"In this game, it's hard to turn that switch on and off, and this team's had a problem of doing that," he said.
Jefferson City used four pitchers in the game, trying to get as much of the pitching staff some innings before the zone tournament.
Connor McKenna started on the mound and went three innings, striking out seven of the 12 batters he faced.
"He's always around the zone," Vaughn said. "I know he hasn't been throwing the curveball long, but it's coming along, and his changeup is a very hard pitch to hit."
Ryan Paschal and Hayden Hirschvogel each pitched one inning. Gage Bax threw the final two innings — he needed just six pitches to get through the sixth — and didn't allow a hit to get the win.
In the bottom of the second inning, Jacob Adrian doubled off the left-field fence. Two batters later, Josef Keilholz hit an RBI double to left-center, and the bottom half of the order gave Jefferson City a 1-0 lead.
"It's always a strength of ours as a program, when we get to pull from every school and take the best kids," Vaughn said. "They're used to hitting in the 3 or 4 hole, but now you might be hitting 7. For the other team, that's very hard on a pitcher when they have no break in the lineup."
Zach Stiles hit a sacrifice fly in the third to make the score 2-0.
Columbia scored its first run in the fourth on a throwing error, but Jefferson City got that run back in the bottom half. Hirschvogel's double to center field scored Zach Woehr to make it 3-1.
Hirschvogel went 4-for-4, adding three singles.
"It's always nice having that guy you can slot in the lineup at leadoff, 3 or 4, and know pretty much what you're going to get every night," Vaughn said.
Skylar Morris tied the game at 3 in the fifth with a two-run home run over the left-field fence. Morris had three of Columbia's six hits, adding two singles.
"They had a few big hits," Vaughn said of Columbia, which had only nine players at the game. The two teams were supposed to play Tuesday night as well, but Columbia did not have enough players to field a team.
After finding the power alleys earlier in the game, Post 5 used a little small ball to take the lead for good in the bottom of the sixth.
Michael Skinner hit a leadoff single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Skinner then moved to third on a balk and scored on Parker Schnieders' slow roller to the pitcher.
"You do whatever you can when it's your number," Vaughn said.
Hirschvogel followed with an RBI single to give Post 5 a two-run lead.
The Post 5 Seniors (18-7) will play a doubleheader beginning at noon Saturday in Blue Springs against Westside, a team from Omaha, Neb. It will be Jefferson City's last outing before next week's zone tournament at the Legion Complex.