GUILFORD, Mo. — Adversity is not what normally comes to mind when you think of a one-loss team, but that has been the story for the Northeast Nodaway Bluejays. It started for the Bluejays with the loss of Spencer Weir to an out-field injury and continued on Wednesday night as they watched a 6-0 lead cut to one run.
But the Bluejays’ resilience helped them hold that lead and defeat the North Andrew Cardinals 6-5 for the Class 1 District 16 Championship.
“When you have Chet Spire on the mound, good things happen,” Bluejays coach Vance Proffitt said. “We had to grind out some stuff. It wasn’t pretty at times but we made it work and I’m just so excited for these boys.”
Spire was dominant from the beginning. The senior forced a ground out to start the game and then proceed to strikeout the next two batters.
The Bluejays offense did have its struggles against North Andrew starter Nic Crets early on. Crets struck out the first two batters in the bottom of the first before allowing a double to Spire. Crets then hit Ethan Adwell to give Northeast runners on first and second. Crets forced a fly out to center field to end the inning.
The Cardinals got their first baserunner of the afternoon with one out in the top of the second with a walk from catcher Jaden Baker. Baker, who’s baserunning helped in the win over Platte Valley on Monday, was caught stealing in his first attempt on Wednesday night. Spire then struck out Nick Taylor to end the inning.
The Bluejay offense was finally able to get to Crets in the bottom of the third. Ben Boswell was hit by a pitch to start the inning, then Levi Boulting’s double moved both players into scoring position. Spire helped himself with a two-run double for the first runs of the game.
McIntyre drove in the third run of the inning after reaching third base on an error. The runs kept coming as Spencer Gray recorded his fifth RBI of the tournament. The inning’s final run came on an RBI single by Chase Atkins.
North Andrew showed signs of life in the top of the sixth. Spire started the inning with a strikeout before allowing a single to Drake Eychaner. Spire then struck out his counterpart, Crets to give Northeast Nodaway two outs. But Orlo Simmons was finally able to get the Cardinals their first run with an RBI single to right field.
Spire’s day came to an end after walking Hunter Simmons. Spire finished the day with 14 strikeouts and allowed two earned runs.
Boulting came in to relieve Spire with two outs in the top of the sixth. Boulting walked his first batter to load the bases, then hit the second batter of the inning to make it a four-run game.
“I thought we were about to have something like we did last year, I thought we were going to choke again, but it’s a good thing we didn’t and we pulled through,” Gray said.
Things then really became dicey for the Bluejays after a routine fly ball to the outfield bounced off of the defender’s glove — clearing the bases to pull North Andrew to within one. Boulting walked the next two batters to again load the bases.
“I told him you can’t do anything about that, you just have to take care of what’s in front of you,” Spire said. “You have to throw the next pitch, we’re still ahead and it’s your game.”
The Bluejays had their chances to extend their lead in the bottom of the sixth by drawing walks with three of their first four batters. Cardinals’ reliever Jaden Baker struck out Maverick Price for the second out of the inning and forced Austin Pride to ground out to the shortstop to leave the bases loaded.
After struggling in the sixth, Proffitt felt it was best for Boulting to go back out in the seventh and prove himself.
“I told him, you’re my dude, you’re finishing it and now go get it done,” Proffitt said.
Boulting found his command in the top of the seventh and retired all three batters that he faced. Crets flied out to left field to start the inning. Boulting then struck out Orlo Simmons and forced a pop out to second base to end the game.
“We were always there to back and that’s what we as a team do — we back each other up,” Gray said.
Up next for the Bluejays will be a rematch with the North Harrison Shamrocks. The two teams faced off on May 6 in a game that was rained out in the fourth inning. The two teams will face each other on May 20 in the first round of the state tournament.
“We just have to come together, we’re still getting used to our lineup without Spencer,” Spire said. “We just need to embrace it and do our jobs.”