Garden City, KS (westernkansasnews.com)-During his postgame speech, Garden City Elite Coach Lyle Befort made it perfectly clear to his team:
“One inning is all it takes to kill us,” he said. “We erase that and we win this game.”
Strategically, Befort couldn’t have asked for a better scenario. His pitching staff was well rested, and he had his ace Ryder Yakel on the bump in the finale. Still it didn’t stop Butler County from hitting him early, plating three runs in the first in a 3-1 victory in the finals of the 28th Clanton Memorial Tournament Sunday afternoon at Williams Stadium.
“He (Yakel) was up in the zone early,” Befort explained. “And they were able to get to him.”
After getting the first two hitters to ground out and line out respectively, the Yankees went to work. A single followed by an error on third baseman Casey English allowed the first run to score.
Then Gage Axline’s two-run single completed a half inning that saw Butler County score three runs; all of them with two outs.
“Good teams take advantage of mistakes,” Befort said. “They’re a good team, and they made us pay.”
Marcus Zapata got one of those back in the bottom half when he slapped a run-scoring single up the middle. That’s when the bats went silent; at least in the situation the Elite needed them the most.
Despite bringing the tying or go-ahead run to the plate in every inning that followed, Befort’s team could never muster the hit they needed with runners in scoring position.
But even Befort himself owned up to a mistake in the fifth.
“I’m a big enough person to tell these guys when I foul up,” Befort said. “I should have bunted our guy over, and I didn’t. I should know that this team is good enough to score at least one run in every inning. That’s on me.”
Thomas Solorio led off the fifth with a single. Befort then put Colby Casaus in as a courtesy runner.
“I figured our guys would get a double and bring the guy home,” Befort explained. “But it never happened.”
Marcus Zapata flew out to center, and Sloan Baker grounded into an inning-ending double play. Just like that the threat was over.
“We’ll only get better from this,” Befort added.
“In the seventh, the Elite once again put the tying run on when Rivas drew a leadoff walk.
With one out, Rivas took second on a wild pitch but was caught napping moments later when left-handed pitcher Dakota Clift spun around and fired a pellet to second base where Braden Ash applied the tag just before Rivas was able to slide back into the bag.
“He (Rivas) is one of our fastest guys,” Befort said. “But you can’t have that happen in that situation.”
Still, Garden City brought the tying run to the plate again when Solorio drew a seven-pitch walk after falling behind in the count. But the threat was extinguished quickly when Zapata lined out to center field to end the game.
The loss spoiled a rather inspiring effort from Yankel on the hill. After a nerve-racking first inning, the Lakin star settled down, and even got himself out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth with back-to-back strikeouts. He threw 109 pitches, and allowed three runs on 10 hits.
His counterpart Clift allowed just one run on seven hits. He struck out four.
The loss drops the Elite to 15-3 overall.