For five innings, Park Hill’s Chandler Ashby fired an eight-strikeout, no-hit game against the host Grain Valley Eagles on a wind-blown Monday afternoon.
That’s when the Crusty Cove student fan section in left field donned rally caps.
Eagles catcher Caden Matlon responded with a solo home run to break up the no-hitter and put the first Eagles run on the scoreboard. Grain Valley added two more runs in the bottom of the seventh off reliever Hunter Atkinson before falling 6-3 in a first-round game in the Northland Tournament.
“Maybe the guys in the Crusty Cove should have put their rally caps on sooner,” quipped Matlon, who threw out four baserunners and made a sweeping tag at home plate on an unsuccessful front-end of a double steal by the Trojans.
“Those guys mean everything to us. We were struggling offensively today, and everyone in the dugout could hear them cheering for us. It might get quiet in our dugout in a game like this, then we hear the Crusty Cove guys going crazy and it gets us fired up.”
Seconds after the solo blast, Crusty Cove regular Tommy Moon retrieved the home run ball and gave it to Matlon in the dugout.
“I wasn’t even thinking about getting that ball, and Tommy gave it to me just about the same time I got done running the bases – it was like 30 seconds after I hit it,” the junior catcher added. “That was so cool. No baseball team has a cheering section like the Crusty Cove.”
The Trojans took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning when Drew Townsend stole home. They added two more runs in the second on a fielder’s choice RBI and infield error.
Park Hill added another unearned run in the fourth and two more runs off starter Cole Keller on Joe Daneff’s sacrifice fly and Townsend’s RBI double to make it 6-0.
“We didn’t play well today,” Eagles coach Brian Driskell said after his team fell to 9-5. “Sometimes, I feel like they don’t have as much confidence in themselves as I have in them.
“But they kept fighting and made a game out of it in the last couple of innings.”
Eagles centerfielder Mason Rogers echoed his coach’s thoughts.
“This team doesn’t give up, no matter how much we are down,” said Rogers, whose two-run triple in the bottom of the seventh cut the deficit to 6-3. “We weren’t going to give up and we made it close at the end.
“And that’s something positive we can take to our next game.”