WARDSVILLE — For one day, it was as if the Blair Oaks baseball team was an honorary member of the Central Missouri Activities Conference.
"Overall, we competed, and that's what we wanted to do," Blair Oaks coach Mike DeMilia said Thursday after the Falcons defeated the Sedalia Smith-Cotton Tigers 12-1 and lost 1-0 to the Battle Spartans in pool play of the Columbia Tournament at the Falcon Athletic Complex.
"We just didn't swing the bats as well as we could have in the second game. Their pitchers did a nice job, that was part of the reason, but we just didn't have the best approach all the time."
Blair Oaks and Battle combined for three hits in the third of three games at Blair Oaks. The difference was, the one hit by Battle was the only run to cross the plate.
Garrett Bever opened the third inning with a single to left field, advanced to third base on a pair of wild pitches, then scored on a third wild pitch with two outs.
"I hate it, but that's happens when you don't take care of the ball," DeMilia said of the game's only run scoring on a wild pitch. "A lot of times in baseball, it's not the team that does the most, it's the team that makes the least mistakes."
The throw from the backstop to try and get Bever was wild, but it also allowed the Falcons to catch courtesy runner Donovan Hicks too far off third base for the third out to end the inning.
Blair Oaks pitcher Cale Willson walked three and hit two batters, but he struck out 15 of the 22 batters he faced. Willson reached his pitch-count limit of 105 pitches with two outs in the top of the sixth inning.
"His stuff is amazing," DeMilia said. "He has great stuff, he just has a hard time commanding sometimes. He wasn't very good early, but then he got in a groove in the fourth and fifth innings and just mowed them down.
"I told the team after the game, when he gives up one run in six innings, we've got to win."
Josh Isaacs relieved Willson, striking out four of the five batters he faced, giving Blair Oaks pitching a total of 19 strikeouts in the loss.
In addition to Bever's single, the only other ball a Battle hitter put into play was Sean Keene, who fouled out to right fielder Wil Libbert on a diving catch in the fourth inning.
Keene's pitching was equally impressive for the Spartans, as he retired the first 10 batters he faced on 44 pitches.
Ian Nolph broke up the perfect game with a single to left field in the fourth inning, and Gavin Wekenborg hit a two-out single up the middle in the fifth. However, Nolph was the only Falcon to reach third base all game.
"We just couldn't square up any balls," DeMilia said. "We were having a lot of good at-bats, a lot of long at-bats. We just couldn't get a barrel on something to get a hit there."
Blair Oaks hitters fouled off 14 pitches with two strikes to extend at-bats.
"They threw strikes, they played defense," DeMilia said. "That's a good recipe for winning. They made us earn everything, and unfortunately we couldn't earn one."
Keene was pulled after five innings when he reached his limit of 95 pitches, striking out five and walking two. Raye Kennon threw the last two innings to earn the save for Battle (6-3-1), striking out five.
"He came in and did the job," DeMilia said of Kennon. "I thought both guys really threw well."
Blair Oaks got the tying run to second base in the seventh, but Kennon was able to get Gavin Wekenborg to fly out to left field to end the game.
The loss snapped a nine-game winning streak for the Falcons.
"We've gotten a lot better defensively, that was the biggest concern early in the year," DeMilia said. "We really struggled on that end. Our offense had been really good, until this game."
Blair Oaks hit much better in its first game, collecting 10 hits in five innings against the Tigers.
"We did what we had to do that game," DeMilia said.
Other than a 1-2-3 third inning, Blair Oaks had at least four batters reach base in each of the other four innings.
The game ended with a walk-off three-run home run by Ian Nolph, who sliced a 1-2 pitch down the right-field line that exited the park just beyond the 310-foot sign.
"He's been working on going the other way, and it was a really good swing," DeMilia said. "He let the ball get deep (in the zone) and he got all of it. That was a great swing, a good way to end that game."
Nolph went 2-for-4 with three RBI, while Hayden Salmons had two singles and two RBI. Dylan Hair finished with a pair of singles and Reid Dudenhoeffer added three RBI.
Cade Stockman pitched all five innings in the win, walking four and striking out four. All five hits were singles for Smith-Cotton (3-8), with Ayden Perkins driving in the Tigers' only run on a single in the third.
Blair Oaks (11-3), ranked No. 4 in Class 4, is scheduled to play Class 6 No. 8 Staley (6-5) at 8 p.m. today at Atkins Park in Columbia.
"We're the small school in this tournament, but I feel like we can compete with anybody," DeMilia said.