REPUBLIC — A combination of flawed fundamentals on the basepaths, at-bat, in the field and on the pitcher’s mound led to Nixa being eliminated from COC contention, with the Eagles falling to Republic 7-2 Tuesday.
The best Nixa (23-6 overall and 6-2 in the COC) can hope for is a tie for second place. Republic, Willard and Webb City are all tied for first in the loop with 7-1 marks and each has one league game remaining, including a Willard-Webb City showdown.
“We've got to be more fundamentally sound consistently if we want to win a championship,” Eagles coach Logan Hughes said.
Hughes couldn’t quite figure how his team could look so good Monday while whipping Kickapoo 8-0 and not do much right at Republic.
“Isn’t high school baseball funny, you can play really solid one day and the next day turn around and throw it all over the place,” Hughes said. “We didn't execute tonight. Early on, I didn't feel like we were locked in. We've got to figure out how to play better two days in a row.”
Nixa got to Republic pitcher Gavyn Becker late in a District semifinal win last season, but couldn’t put much together against him this time around.
The Eagles were no-hit through the first four innings.
They gave all due to praise to the senior right-hander.
“He's really good. He commands three pitches for strikes,” Hughes said. “He throws a ton of curve balls and threw (his curve) in every single count. He threw a lot of them for a first pitch.”
“He throws a lot of off-speed and his curve ball is pretty tight,” first baseman Tanner Grant said. “He gets guys off balance. He’s got really good tempo and doesn't seem fazed out there. He's tough to beat. He was lights out.”
Nate Uber broke up the no-hit bid with a double with one out in the fifth.
“He threw four or five fast balls in a row and they were all in the upper part of the zone,” Uber said. “I expected it there and he threw it there again. I was just hoping he wasn't going to throw a curve ball.”
Uber has emerged from a group of players to gain at-bats at DH recently.
“You try to mix things up and hope one of them catches fire. He took some really good swings tonight,” Hughes said.
Uber lined out to Republic’s shortstop to end a Nixa threat in the sixth. The Eagles had runners on first and second.
“I wish I could have got the last one a little higher,” Uber said. “I kind of knew it was going right there. I top-spinned it a little, instead of staying more inside on it.”
Grant delivered a two-out RBI single earlier in the sixth to cut Republic’s lead to 3-2.
Nixa starting pitcher Jackson Gamble allowed four hits and three runs in 4.2 innings.
Things unraveled for Nixa in the seventh. The Eagles walked in a run and a throwing error allowed two more Republic runs.
“We went out and walked people and it turned into a 7-2 game just like that,” Hughes said.
The scoreboard at Republic had Nixa for three errors, but the Eagles had four. They also had a runner thrown out at second and another runner picked off at first.
“It was the little stuff that got us in the end,” Hughes said. “They played better than we did. They deserved to win and we didn’t.”