Take second to Kirksville-Moberly in district tourney with 5-1 loss to Sixers Sunday
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
TRENTON, Mo. — The door partially opened for them by an upset loss by the top-seeded Chillicothe Cardinals in the first round Friday, the hybrid Kirksville/Moberly Sixers senior (AAA) American Legion baseball team captured the championship of the 2017 Missouri Districts 1-2 Tournament at Burleigh Grimes Field Sunday, hand-cuffing the Cardinals 5-1 in the first game of the double-elimination tournament’s championship round on a hot, sunny mid-July day.
With sidearming righthander Lane Threlkeld, a Moberly-area product now living at Columbia as he attends college, brilliantly keeping Chillicothe batters’ off-time with a fastball and slow curve, the Sixers made three unearned runs they plated to take the lead in the top of the third inning enough for victory, although they added single runs in the fifth and eighth.
The title – and accompanying berth in this week’s Missouri Zone 1 (eastern Missouri) Tournament at Washington – is the latest for the Moberly-managed program which has dominated District 2 and then combined Districts 1-2 over the past 15-20 years.
This is the first year it has operated under the combined names with Kirksville, which hasn’t had a Legion team for more than a decade. According to a long-time official with the Sixers team, the change was necessitated in order to keep several players from the Kirksville region who have been with the team the past few years, but who, geographically, otherwise would have been obligated to play with the new Green City program this summer.
By tabbing Kirksville’s school district as the Sixers’ “base school,” rather than Moberly, those players were under Kirksville’s geographic “umbrella” and stayed Sixers. With no other district Legion team near Moberly, the players from that area then were able to join or stay with the Sixers.
Their loss Sunday left the AAA Cardinals with a final overall record of 15-7-1 in 2017.
Sunday’s game saw top seed Chillicothe needing to win twice to take the crown, while Kirks-ville/Moberly could prevail with a single triumph in up to two tries. Thanks mainly to Threlkeld, it took only one.
Despite the challenge ahead, Chillicothe had positioned itself to have the available resources to pull off the against-the-odds Sunday sweep, having both of its top pitchers available for more than 10 innings apiece.
The Cardinals gained hope when a Sixers throwing error on a routine, 1-out ground ball allowed Austin Murray to score the game’s first run from second base for an early 1-0 lead.
However, when Kirksville/Mo-berly turned a nice double play on the next batter, it signaled that the prior mistake would not rattle the Sixers.
Chillicothe returned the favor in the top of the third, but paid a larger price.
After the leadoff man singled and the next fanned, a Cardinals attempt to get at least a forceout at second base on a bouncer to first failed when the throw to second hit the baserunner.
Another error on a wild pickoff attempt at second put more pressure on and the Sixers applied more.
A game-tying RBI single to left, a walk, and a ground-ball hit through the hole into left put Kirksville/Moberly up 2-1. A 2-outs, bases-full walk made it a 3-runs inning.
That was all Threlkeld would require as he went 82⁄3 innings and allowed only five hits with no walks. Chase Killday came on to get the last out after a 2-out single by Tristen Sewell, his second hit, in the ninth.
Statistically, Kirksville/Moberly out-hit the Cardinals 7-5, but the more-important numbers probably were Chillicothe’s five errors and four walks issued.
Kirksville/Moberly’s Sixers had crushed Green City 12-0 in seven innings and Trenton 16-0 in seven to advance to the championship round.