Apr. 9—CARTHAGE, Mo. — Clay Kinder may wake up with a bruise the size of a baseball on his right shoulder on Saturday morning, but the bruise will be well worth it.
With the bases juiced and one out in the seventh, Kinder took an offering from Hunter Cantrell off his shoulder to send the Tigers (4-5) past Carl Junction 5-4 in walk-off fashion in the championship game of the Bill O'Dell Tournament on Friday afternoon.
"No better feeling," Carthage coach Luke Bordewick said. "I don't care how much it hurt. No better feeling than walking off a baseball game with a hit by pitch."
Kinder's hit by pitch completed a four-run comeback for Carthage that faced a 4-1 hole entering the sixth inning.
And the Tigers had to use a little two-out magic to get going in the sixth.
After Logan Carmickle and Max Templeman went down on strikes, Sylas Browning ignited the rally with a two-out single while Kinder reached on a free pass and Caden Kabance was hit by a pitch.
That set the stage for Will McCombs, who delivered with a two-run single up the middle to trim the deficit to 4-3 heading to the top of the seventh.
McCombs, who retired eight batters in a row to end the game, tossed a perfect 1-2-3 inning against the Bulldogs in the top half. In the bottom half of the seventh, Kaden Kralicek drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second after Kanen Vogt dropped a sacrifice bunt up the third base line.
Carmickle followed with a one-out single to move Kralicek to third, while Templeman was intentionally walked to load the bases. And Browning came through in the clutch, yanking an RBI single to left field to tie the game at 4-4 before Kinder had the proverbial walk-off, hit by pitch.
"What a good approach that kid had," Bordewick said. "It was 2-0 and he took a borderline strike, which was great. He stuck with it. It was awesome. Good approach by that kid."
"It was a pretty good game, a fast-paced game. It was nice to be on this side of it. We have been on CJ's side of it multiple times. It's nice to pull one out late. It's fun. It feels awesome to win this tournament. We had a lot of good teams here this year, so it's kind of a measuring stick where we can compete with anybody as long as we play our baseball. ... We can compete with anybody."
Carl Junction struck first, scoring a pair of runs in the opening frame to take a 2-0 lead. Alex Baker and Dylan Eck accounted for the Bulldogs' tallies, producing an RBI one-bagger and sacrifice fly, respectively.
Carthage trimmed the deficit to 2-1 in the bottom of the third. Kinder came across to score from third after an errant pickoff attempt by Kyler Perry to first base. But Perry made up for the error in the top of the fourth, belting an RBI double to the left field wall to give Carl Junction a 3-1 advantage.
Drew Beyer provided some insurance for the Bulldogs in the top of the fifth, knocking in a Cole Stewart on a sacrifice fly.
"It was a well, hard-fought game," Carl Junction coach Jake Stevenson said. "Kudos to Carthage for getting it done in the end. We came out and struck early, and had some opportunities in the middle innings. We just didn't take advantage. That's part of the game sometimes. It was a tough scenario, but it's a learning experience for our team. There's a lot of baseball left to play this season."
McCombs, the winning pitcher, went the distance for Carthage in his first-ever high school start and only needed 90 pitches. The senior righty kept the opposition off balance with a fastball and curveball mix while striking out seven batters.
He may have just earned another opportunity to start for the Tigers.
"We'll have a conversation about it, that's for sure," Bordewick said, laughing.
Carthage amassed 10 hits, led by Grant Collier, McCombs and Carmickle with two knocks apiece.
Cantrell suffered the loss for Carl Junction (9-3). Noah Southern had two of the Bulldogs' seven hits.
Both teams and the two Pittsburg State baseball alums (Bordewick and Stevenson) won't have to wait long for a rematch. The two sides match up at Carl Junction at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
"It's always fun facing them," Bordewick said. "He's a professional. I'm a professional. Once it kind of cools down, we'll talk about it later in the week maybe. We got them on Tuesday, too. We have got to win that one more importantly than this one."