The Junction City Brigade is headed back to the Cowdin Cup Championship, but getting there was no easy task.
After falling to the Kansas City Knights in game one of the semi-finals, they had to rally off two wins in a row to advance. With a big 13-1 victory in game two, the Brigade headed back home and closed the series out Wednesday with a 8-5 win in front of its home crowd.
The Brigade fell behind early after shortstop Mac McCroskey took a bad hop from a ground ball, which brought a run home for the Knights.
But in the bottom half of the first inning, Carson Sader made a baseball pay when he sent a two-run shot over the fence to put the Brigade up 2-1. Sader has been swinging a hot bat recently, a perfect time of the year to regain a form that head coach Derek Francis has seen out of the second basemen before.
“He’s been seeing the ball well for the last week or so,” Francis said. “I guess over the series the last three games. He showed some power last summer too, he had three or four home runs and had one earlier this summer. It’s a guy when he gets a barrel to a ball, the ball jumps. That’s a guy that if we can get going here and get hot for this last series, I like our chances offensively. It’s all going to come down to big-time hits and then filling up the zone on the pitching side.”
Junction City was able to increase its lead to three runs, but the Knights bit into the lead and tied the game up in the sixth inning via a passed ball. With two outs against him and the bases loaded, the Brigade needed to capitalize on its momentum. Tyler Halstead sent a pitch into the right-centerfield gap to clear the bases as he slid head first into third base with a triple.
It was never pretty, but the Brigade never looked back from that point and held on to the victory to keep on dancing in the playoffs.
“We kept shooting ourselves in the foot, didn’t play clean baseball whatsoever,” Francis said. “Errors, walks, hit by pitches, balks — you name it and we did it. It was just one of those nights where it wasn’t clean baseball, but we found a way to win. We got some big-time hits when we really needed to. We did just enough to win, that’s a good ball club. The Knights scrapped and fought and gave us all they had, so that was fun.”
This will set up a meeting with the Midwest A’s, a team the Brigade has taken three of four of from this season. These were the two teams battling it out in the top two seeds in the standings all season long, so it is a fitting way to finish out the year.
“They’re really talented, they have kids from really good schools,” Francis said. “It’s going to be a dogfight for sure. They’re going to come out and swing it — they did it all year. I think they have the best offensive numbers across the board throughout the regular season. It’s going to be a fight for us; it’s probably going to come down to pitching and who can be in the zone the most with competitive quality pitches. We’re going to be able to roll around our two starters again. We’re going to have Jack Christian and Riley Taylor going, not sure what order. Game two against the Knights was huge; we were able to take Riley (Taylor) out after 50 pitches. So, he’s able to come back on for us and be ready to roll.