Kinson Michel is well aware extra-inning games can sometimes continue on and on because hitters give in to temptation and swing for a home run. What’s more, he knows the heroic feeling of delivering an extra-inning, game-winning homer, having done so this season in Nixa’s 14-inning regular-season victory at Willard.
But the Nixa senior second baseman was thinking of anything but a home run leading up to his game-winning RBI-single in the Eagles’ 5-4, eight-inning win over Kickapoo in a Class District 10 semifinal Monday.
With runners on first and second and two outs, Michel broke a 4-all tie with a line drive down the third-base line to score Ryan Cram.
“It was really about experience,“ Michel said. “People try to hit home runs in that situation. But you have to stay focused and just put the ball in play.”
Michel was also mindful not to try for his second home run of the night, having blasted a solo homer in the fifth inning.
“I’ve hit home runs in the past and then tried to hit the ball as hard as I can in my next at-bat to try to hit home run number two,” Michel said. “It doesn’t work that way. You’ll roll over and pop out or strike out. You have to have the mindset that the last AB doesn’t matter anymore.”
Michel’s slump at the end of NIxa’s regular-season slate didn’t matter to him, either. He couldn’t have been more confident in the clutch Monday.
“He was sitting next to me in the dugout in the eighth inning and told me that if he got up, he was going to get a hit,” winning pitcher Isaac Mitchell said. “I had confidence in him, too.”
“Isaac told me, ‘Hey, you’re going to get a hit this at-bat and I said, ‘I know, I’m feeling good,’” Michel said. “I was just hoping I got up to bat.”
He got the opportunity after Cram led off the inning with a single, Bryant Avery moved Cram to second with a sacrifice and with two outs, Kickapoo intentionally walked Joe Reid.
“They walked Joe and that was a smart move by them,” Michel said. “I had been struggling the past few games. But tonight I came in feeling good. The blood was rushing through (me). The adrenaline was everywhere. When you have that feeling, you’re ready for everything.”
“I hope he has that same feeling (for tonight’s championship game),” coach Jason Daugherty added. “Rewind a couple of games ago and he was flying out and popping out. But tonight he looked good.”
Nixa (23-2) spotted Kickapoo (18-11) a 4-0 lead, before Mitchell shut out the Chiefs over the final seven innings. Starting pitcher Ace Akers struggled with his control and yielded a two-run home run to his counterpart, Mason Auer in the second.
Mitchell began stretching in the Eagles’ bullpen in the first.
“I didn’t expect to come in and throw a seven-inning game obviously,” Mitchell said. “But I got myself ready. I can get ready as fast as I need to. I can be ready in five minutes or 30 minutes, it depends on what the situation calls for.
“The emotions were high tonight. I knew that if my time came, I had to get my job done. I was going to go until I couldn’t go anymore.”
Mitchell also beat Kickapoo two weeks ago. Overall, as a starter and a reliever, he held the Chiefs to one run over 14 innings.
“It was on my mind that they had already seen me,” Mitchell said. “But I had the mental game to get it done. I knew what to throw them and when to throw it. (Joe) and I knew how to approach them.”
“Ace wasn’t his usual sharp self. I think he got a little rattled,” Daugherty said. “Isaac threw zeroes up there. He stopped the bleeding.”
Nixa was no-hit by Auer for the first 4.1 innings. The Eagles had scoring opportunities almost every inning, with Auer walking seven. On Auer’s 105th pitch of the night, Michel belted a shot over the left-center field fence.
“That was my third at-bat against him, so I was timed up against him and he wasn’t throwing me off-speed,” Michel said. “I barreled it up. I actually thought (umpires) had called a ground-rule double, so I stopped at second base.”
Later on in the night, Michel stopped in between first and second after his game-winning hit and was mobbed by his teammates. He was glad they didn’t try to put him on their shoulders, as the Eagles did with Akers following a Nixa basketball game against Ozark during the winter.
“That could have turned out bad,” Michel said with a laugh, noting he weighs a bit more than Akers. “But for the championship game if we win, yeah that’d be good.
“I’m going to be friends with these guys long after school. We’re going to come back to watch games like this and we’ll remember our moments like this game, the 14-inning game at Willard, (tonight’s) championship game and every other game from here on out.”
No.1-ranked Nixa meets top-seeded Glendale in tonight’s title tilt at 6. With Parkview’s cozy confines simply too small to accommodate Monday’s overflowing District semifinal crowd, fans should be warned to expect seating to fill up early and quickly tonight, as well.
Nixa will not be able to send Mitchell or Akers to the mound after they each exceeded a pitch-count of 30, forcing them to sit out one game. The same holds true for Glendale ace, Ty Wilmsmeyer, who shut out Ozark.
“This game burned my top two guys,” Daugherty said. “After the first inning, Ace was at 29. I was debating whether (to lift) him right there. I was hoping he would settle down.But he didn’t have it. I’ve got some depth. We’ll put (a starter) out there who is going to compete and we’ll have a couple of (relievers) who will compete, as well.”