The bonds Nixa’s players built on their way to a No. 1-ranking and the friendships they formed for as long as they can remember will be ever-so important after another moment of despair for the Eagles.
Just as was the case in football and basketball this school year, Nixa was riding high one minute, only to be dealt a crushing defeat. The Eagles squandered a two-run, sixth-inning lead to Glendale on Tuesday and fell 4-2 in the Class 5 District 10 championships game.
A lead-off walk, a controversial passed ball that Nixa coaches and players argued was a foul ball and two errors helped seal the Eagles’ fate in the Falcons’ four-run sixth
“It’s going to be a rough couple of days,” second baseman Kinson Michel said. “Communication will be important. We’ll help each other out and stay talking. Everybody will be good. There’s more baseball ahead.
“Sports are unpredictable,” he added. “This happens and it can be tough.”
Indeed, over the past seven months Nixa’s football team lost in a District semifinal by falling one yard short in overtime on a two-point conversion attempt and the Eagles' basketball team let a four-point lead slip away in the final two minutes of a District final loss.
Jake Uber appeared well on his way to his shining moment as a senior, shutting out Glendale the first five innings. But suddenly about anything that could go wrong for the Eagles did. The Falcons (22-7) had a modest three hits while plating their four runs in the sixth.
“I put it all out on the field for my team,” Uber said. “This is not just a team, they’re my brothers. I’d do anything for them. Once a team, always a team. We have really strong bonds and if you don’t have a close-knit group of guys, you just just don’t play as well together.
“I feel like overall we played very well together,” he added. “Today it just didn’t go our way. We made mistakes. Mistakes happen. You’ve got to move on. But this is going to be a tough one to move on from.”
“I was smelling District championship,” coach Jason Daugherty said. “We got through the meat part of their order (in the fifth) and felt we would be good. But they kept putting he ball in play, we weren’t making plays, they had some timely hits and we got beat.”
Nixa (23-3) was no-hit through the first three innings, before putting up single runs in the fourth and fifth on RBI-singles by Michel and Isaiah Engelman. Hunter Crabtree doubled and scored.
In the top of the sixth, the Eagles loaded the bases with one out on a walk to Joe Reid and singles by Michel and Crabtree. But they were all left stranded.
“To not get anything at all with the bases loaded, that was tough,” Daugherty said. “I think they kind of fold if we scored there. The game could have been totally different.
"We hadn’t been hitting the ball well the past three weeks, just enough to get by. Bu we were used to winning. I always felt like we were going to find a way to win.”
Uber, Nixa’s No. 3 pitcher, responded admirably to the pressure of pitching for a District title. His location was ideal most of the night. He kept the ball low in the strike zone and induced eight groundouts. Glendale hitters rarely barreled up on him.
“I threw quite a few pitches in the bullpen (in Monday’s eight-inning win against Kickapoo). But my arm felt good today,” Uber said. “I felt good enough to do what I had to do. It just didn’t work out the way I wanted it to.”
Similarly, Uber was the losing pitcher in Nixa’s lone loss to Webb City due to six Eagles errors against Webb City.
“We’ve got to make plays behind him. It happened every time he threw this season,” Michel said. “For some reason, we couldn’t make plays behind him.”
“I knew we would have a chance with him out there,” Daugherty said. “It’s tough when they have momentum going their way and guys are making mistakes behind you. It’s hard to keep your head. But he pitched fine, well enough to win.
“I felt we had a team to go to the Final Four and who knows what,” he added. “Glendale has had our number the last few years (at Districts). I felt we had them. But we gave it away.”
NIXA (ab-r-h-bi) — Avery 3b 4-0-0-0, Long ss 4-0-0-0, Reid c 2-1-0-0, Michel 2b 3-0-2-1, Nelson dh 3-0-0-0, Crabtree rf 3-1-2-0, Scalise lf 3-0-0-0, Engelman 1b 3-0-1-1, Cram cf 3-0-1-0.
GLENDALE — Hamlin lf 3-0-0-0, Wilmsmeyer ss 3-0-0-0, Elmer 2b 3-1-1-0, Brand rf 3-1-1-1, Glenn 3b 3-1-2-1, Holnberger 1b 3-0-0-0, Bassett dh 3-0-0-0, Aaron c 2-1-0-0, Martino cf 2-0-0-0.
Nixa 000 110 0 - 2 6 2
Glendale 000 004 x - 4 4 1
WP - Glenn. LP - Uber.