O' FALLON, Mo. — For a baseball team making its first appearance in the Missouri state championships since winning the title 10 years ago, the first inning was about as good offensively as Archie could ever hope for June 2.
But nothing else went right for the Whirlwinds, who never scored again during the Class 2 state semifinals. They also committed five errors and therefore lost to defending state champion Hartville 8-3 at T.R. Hughes Stadium. The Whirlwinds wound up taking fourth after losing to Linn 8-1 June 3 in the consolation game.
"We put pride in our defense," Whirlwinds head coach Bryon Cecil said. "A couple of plays didn't go our way today. Nerves can play a part of that, but no excuses. Hartville is a very good ballclub."
The Eagles were ranked fifth in Class 2.
It appeared the Whirlwinds, 19-9, were going to reach the championship game again and spoil Hartville's hopes of a title repeat.
Archie took advantage of key breaks in the first inning to chase Hartville starter Matt Buford off the mound. However, Seth Hensley answered for the Eagles in relief with 6 2/3 scoreless innings of work, including seven strikeouts, to prevent further damage and claim the win.
Archie loaded the bases in the first inning when Toby Gibson received a leadoff walk, Kody Bray bunted for a single and Calvin Romi singled.
Jacob Gordon got the scoring started for the Whirlwinds when he was hit by a pitch to score Caleb Schacher, who was running for Gibson.
Archie made it 2-0 when Buford mishandled Caleb Blundell's suicide squeeze to score Bray. Matt Lewis then singled home Romi.
"Everybody was really happy," said Cecil, who was a member of the Whirlwinds' 2004 title team. "We had quality at-bats. We put our bunts down and put them in the right place to put pressure on the defense. Make the defense get you out. It worked the first inning. We put them in difficult situations and it paid off for us."
Hartville, 19-5, responded in the top of the second with three runs of its own — Derek Davis, Hunter Simmons and A.J. Buford each had RBI singles to tie it at 3-3 and give starting pitcher Romi the hook.
"I figured we still had a decent chance," said Romi, who was one for four with a run scored. "The last two games we've been down 2-0 till the fifth inning. We came back and beat both those teams and they were both top contenders in the state. Things just don't go your way sometimes and it didn't go our way today. We just had a rough day."
Archie relief pitcher Boston Dickerson, who suffered the loss, kept the score tied until the sixth when the Eagles sent 10 batters to the plate. They score five runs off a triple, two RBI singles, two walks and an error.
"(Hartville) put the ball where it needed to be," Cecil said. "We've been used to tied ballgames all playoffs. I wasn't worried. I knew eventually we would make our plays, but (Hartville) made them first. After that five-run inning, it kind of killed the spirit of our boys to get them to rally back."
Designated hitter Collin Lewis was two for three with an RBI. Gordon, Bray, Dickerson and Romi all had hits. Hartville had six hits in all.
The Whirlwinds dropped to the third-place game against 10th-ranked Linn. The Wildcats lost 4-0 to the top-ranked Ste. Genevieve Valle Catholic in the other semifinal.
"The boys are the ones who got here," Cecil said. "I'm just the captain. They did all the work. But it's a wonderful feeling to go back to your alma mater and bring them back to state. It's great because I know how it feels to get here and win or lose at this level. I wanted them to experience this and I hope they are enjoying their time here.
“I know they're disappointed right now … but they will remember this experience."