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Release the McCracken

From the Mean Streets of Mound City

by Mickey Mounds
Contributor, covering Missouri’s Bootheel and St Louis

Outside of the Olympic Games (and FIFA) the state-side media tends to show bias in favor of professional club teams and championships, and against international competition. For instance, the World Championships of Ice Hockey gold medalists are considered “2nd-rate” compared to the Stanley Cup winners, while in reality an annual series pitting the 2 champions would be phenomenal.

Simple fear of the unknown? Maybe, but competitive format also has a lot to do with it. Major League Baseball, the NBA, and the NHL decide their titles with 7-game series…long-considered the best method of determining the best team. But as we’ve talked about on Mean Streets, a 16-team international or student-athletic tourney is undeniably a tougher nut to crack. Imagine having to sweep a championship series just to survive – against 4 different opponents.

The McCracken Mustangs beat Trinity, the #1-ranked baseball team in Kentucky, 1-0 in Lexington last Friday after a classic pitchers duel in which big-time hurler Luke Seed emerged with the shutout-winner. There’s no doubt that the Varsity ‘Stangs have terrific pitching – but a lot of teams in the KHSAA tournament feature great pitching. The Mustangs wield prodigious power and hitting depth – but so do most of the 2017 Region winners. Versatility is only half of the winning formula.

A club must be mentally prepared to win any type of ballgame. Mound City’s Valley Park Hawks found that out the hard way in 2017, lighting up scoreboards all season before getting stymied in the MSHSAA Class 3 final. When your game plan involves averaging 10+ runs an outing, it’s hard to snap right into small-ball.

In the KHSAA quarterfinals, McCracken faced Scott County…only the #2-ranked club in Kentucky. To survive the 2nd leg of a nightmare-draw in the bracket, the underdogs unleashed yet another deadly weapon – base-running. The deciding rally in a 4-2 final was produced without the bean leaving the infield, as the Cardinals seemed to crack psychologically in the face of the proud Paducans.

But Friday’s clash captured the most drama. In an at-bat for the ages, senior Mustang reliever Caleb Reinhardt battled Bellarmine University commit Clayton Mehlbauer to a 7th-inning, 2-out full count with more than just the game on the line. Caleb was getting close to the limit of tosses (25) at which he would be disqualified from pitching in the quarterfinal round.

Reinhardt is all about control, with a deceptive fastball and strong mental makeup. He wasn’t going to over-power anyone. But like Dennis Eckersley, Reinhardt hoodwinked his nemesis into tapping a grounder to 2nd (on only his 23rd throw) to seal the deal and set up the huge win over Scott County the next day.

The Mustangs were afforded a break after the quarters (and spent it in the woods looking fearsome, of course) and will meet Pleasure Ridge Park High School this Friday for a chance to play in the biggest KHSAA contest of all.

The Missouri State Bears lost to TCU in a 2-game sweep over the weekend, ending their bid to qualify for the 2017 College World Series. But like the NCAA Basketball Tournament, just having made the Round-of-64 is something a fan base can feel stoked about – and the mid-major Bears mauled several glamour-conference foes this year to eliminate any doubts of their ability to contend.

Another week, another boo-boo! This time, Mickey thoughtlessly referred to Franklin-Simpson’s historic 4th-Region title as a “District” title. The Wildcats did indeed win the 13th District championship, but their long-awaited Region triumph inspired an entire county’s worth of fans. The ‘Cats gave PRPHS all it could handle in the 1st round of the State tournament, losing 4-3.

The McCracken Lady Mustangs again proved to be amazing companion-story to the success of the Varsity boys. Like a prize-fighter landing jabs and an uppercut, the women produced 5 singles and a walk before sophomore Elizabeth Lindley slugged a 3-run homer to essentially decide the 1st Region Championship in the 1st inning. The Lady Mustangs clobbered the Ballard Memorial Lady Bombers 21-2 to make a 4th-consecutive trip to the big dance, where they lost to Louisville Male High School (yes, it’s coed) in a tough 4-0 result.

 

 

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