RAVENWOOD, Mo. — Northeast Nodaway began a 27-game regular-season winning streak 729 days ago with a doubleheader sweep of East Atchison. The streak lasted one day short of two full years, but it ended against who it began with.
East Atchison snapped the Bluejays' streak with an 8-3 victory on Tuesday in Ravenwood.
“We got our butts kicked, plain and simple,” Northeast Nodaway coach Vance Proffitt said. “They played better than we did in every aspect of the game. No matter who is on the field, we have to play better and hopefully this will build a little fire under us. We are beatable at any time of the year. We have a lot of lessons to learn from this.”
Northeast Nodaway (10-1) came into the day with plenty of adversity as All-State shortstop/pitcher Spencer Weir had to leave school early with illness — leaving the Jays without their leadoff hitter.
Despite missing Weir, Northeast Nodaway jumped on the Wolves early with senior Chet Spire hitting a two-out double and junior Ethan Adwell driving him in with a single.
Spire was also rolling on the mound. The Bluejay defense struggled behind Spire with a pair of errors in the second inning, but Spire finished with four innings pitched, one hit, two walks, eight strikeouts and no runs allowed.
“Chet is going to be Chet,” Proffitt said. “Whether his defense is good or his defense is bad, it doesn't matter to Chet. Chet is going to do his thing.”
The Jays added to their lead in the bottom of the fourth inning as Adwell cranked a solo homer to left field, giving Northeast Nodaway a 2-0 lead.
With two games looming Saturday and Adwell slated to miss Saturday's games, Proffitt knew that he had Spire on a pitch count, because he needs him able to pitch Saturday. Proffitt inserted Adwell to begin the fifth inning.
“We have to keep people ready to pitch then because we aren't going to be a full team then either,” Proffitt said. “We made decisions. We are going to live with them and it is what it is right now.”
After a trio of two-out walks in the fifth inning, Adwell was able to maintain the lead by getting Wolves senior Max Hopkins to pop-out to Ben Boswell at third base.
A new-look defense without Weir bit the Jays in the sixth inning. With Weir out, sophomore third baseman Levi Boulting shifted to shortstop, freshman second baseman Boswell shifted to third and freshman Lane Dack took over at second.
“I think this defense falls on us coaches,” Proffitt said. “We didn't do a good enough job getting these guys ready defensively and it showed. We didn't know how to take ground balls very well and that is on us. Hopefully over the next few days we are able to sure some things up defensively because our pitchers got let down today with extended innings. We have really good pitching, but they can't be perfect all the time. Our defense has to help out.”
With one out and one on, Adwell walked Aaron Schluster, but drew a come-backer from Tyler Brown. Adwell threw to second for one out, but Boulting's throw to first for the potential double-play was off target and allowed the Wolves' first run to score.
The Jays were still in good shape with the nine-hitter due up with two outs, but Zachary Garrison drew a walk to extend the inning and get Jake McEnaney to the plate.
McEnaney grounded to third base, but the ball got by Boswell with an error and Brown scored the game-tying run. Hurst gave the Wolves the lead with a three-run home run and East Atchison had a 5-2 advantage.
Spire quickly struck back with a home run to lead off the bottom of the sixth inning, but McEnaney settled back in to maintain a 5-3 lead entering the seventh inning.
Errors again hurt the Jays in the seventh as Hopkins reached on an error to start the inning. Adwell was able to battle into a two-on, two-out situation, but a swinging bunt from Garrison knocked in a run and and once more turned the lineup back over. McEnaney and Hurst each drove in runs and the Wolves lead was up to 8-3.
“Defense can help you win a game and it can also help you lose a game,” Proffitt said. “We will see if we learn from anything and we'll see if we get better.”
The Jays threatened in the bottom of the seventh with Auston Pride, Boswell and Spire reaching base, but McEnaney forced a ground-out to third base from Adwell to end the threat and the game.
The Bluejays now see their lead in the 275 Conference shrink to one game with East Atchison having losses to the Jays and Platte Valley, and Platte Valley having two losses to Northeast Nodaway. The Jays lone remaining 275 Conference tilt is May 7 at DeKalb.
“We have a lot of baseball left to play,” Proffitt said. “This conference is still ours for the taking. That is what we are worried about first.”
The Jays will be back in action on Saturday in the Wildkat Spring Blast in King City.