The Independence Patriots picked a perfect time to halt the Porter Ridge Pirates’ 15-game winning streak.
Independence prevailed 3-2 Friday night to claim the Southwestern 4A baseball conference championship. The game was scheduled to be played at Independence, but a scattered thunderstorm an hour before the first pitch made the Patriots’ field unplayable. It was decided to quickly shift the game to Butler’s field, which missed the rain, delaying the start one hour.
The turn of events didn’t bother Patriots’ senior pitcher R.J. Merli, who scattered seven hits and helped his own cause with an RBI sacrifice fly. Centerfielder Jordan May went 3-for-3 with a single, double and triple, and Jarrett Thompson had two singles and drove in the winning run to spark Independence.
Merli was awarded the Most Valuable Player award for the tournament, and after the game was trying to take in all of what he and the Patriots accomplished.
“It was a good team effort, and in a close game like that you need everybody,” he said.
While Porter Ridge (16-8-1) saw its winning streak come to an end, rebounding from a 1-7-1 start, it didn’t go quietly. Pirates’ pitcher Tyler Andes went the distance and yielded only eight hits and three runs. Shortstop Jake Sullivan paced Porter Ridge at the plate going 3-for-3 with a pair of singles and a double.
The Pirates scratched out two runs in the second inning for a 2-0 advantage on three consecutive singles by Sullivan, Ryan Evans and Josh Scango, coupled with a Patriots’ error.
Independence (17-8) replied in its half of the second as May led off the inning with a triple, and scored on Thompson’s RBI single.
Independence threatened in the third by loading the bases on three consecutive singles to start the inning. But Andes hunkered down, getting a popup and striking out a pair to escape with no damage.
The Patriots evened the game at 2-2 in the fourth. Jacob Fairfax singled with one out and advanced to third on a throwing error. Merli then helped his own cause with an RBI sacrifice fly.
Independence took its first lead of the game at 3-2 in the fifth when May doubled and scored on Thompson’s second RBI of the game.
Now it’s off to the 4A state playoffs for both Porter Ridge and Independence. How far can the Patriots go?
“If we bring the intensity each and every game, this is a special group of guys,” Patriots’ manager Daniel Cooke said. “This group hasn’t experienced playoff baseball, but they are maturing as we go and it’s exciting to see these young guys and eight seniors. They are new to this environment, but the moment is not too big for them.”
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