There are nearly 120 schools statewide in Class 2 baseball.
At the end of the 2019 spring season, it was established that Seymour High School has one of the two best teams.
The Tiger batsmen of head coach Jason Duey competed last Thursday and Friday at the Class 2 Missouri State Baseball Championships in O’Fallon, commonly known as the “Final Four,” as Seymour defeated Silex 5-4 in extra innings in Thursday’s semifinals, then fell 9-0 to Ellington on Friday for the state championship.
“It was a wonderful run, just a great thing to be a part of,” Duey said after Friday’s defeat by Ellington’s Whippets.
“We lost today to a great team, a championship team. We can’t hang our heads. We got here. We competed. And we made it to the final game. That’s an accomplishment.”
Seymour ended its spring season with a record of 21-8.
The Tigers posted an 11-2 record last fall, giving the team a combined 2018-19 record of 32-10, which set a new school record for season victories.
Against Ellington in the title game, Seymour trailed only 1-0 after four innings.
Errors and timely hits by the rival Whippets pushed that lead to 5-0 after five frames, 8-0 after six and 9-0 entering the bottom of the seventh inning.
“We just didn’t have an answer to (Kaleb) Richards, (the starting pitcher for Ellington),” Duey said. “He wasn’t just a thrower ... he is a very refined pitcher. He mixed speeds on us, worked very efficiently.
“Many times, we put the ball in play. And Ellington made plays. They fielded the ball flawlessly. Give them credit. They came into this game with a 28-1 record. After playing them, I can see why.”
Prior to Friday’s loss to Ellington, Seymour had won 11 consecutive contests, dating back to a first-round loss on April 26 at the Neelyville Tournament. Since that time, the Tigers had gone 33 days undefeated.
En route, Duey’s ballclub won five games in their final at bat.
En route, the Tigers won the program’s first-ever district championship.
En route, Seymour advanced to the state-title game, a feat no other Tiger team has accomplished since Seymour High School’s first graduating class of 1901.
“The run we made through the state playoffs was, in many ways, an amazing one,” Duey said. “(During the run), the kids kept making plays, big plays, and they kept coming through with big hits, making big outs.
“You’ve got to have some luck to get this far, to get to the championship game in the state. You also have to be a good ballclub, plain and simple. Teams may luck themselves to a win or two (in the playoffs), but to get to the state championship, you’ve got to be a very good team. These boys worked to get to this position. And I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Seymour’s route to the championship game was a perilous one, as the Tigers needed a comeback victory to get there.
Against Silex in the state semifinals on Thursday, Seymour trailed 2-0 after one inning and 3-1 after two.
When the rival Owls added another run in the top of the fourth frame, the Tigers were down 4-1.
Then the comeback began.
Seymour scored in the bottom of the fourth inning to cut the margin to 4-2, then two more runs an inning later tied the score at 4-4.
Two scoreless frames followed, sending the game into extra innings.
In the bottom of the eighth, senior Eric Helms ripped a line-drive single to left field with one out, then stole second base. Two pitches later, junior Carson Sturdefant connected for a double into the gap between center and right field, and Helms dashed home.
A close play at the plate followed, where Helms slipped Seymour senior Truman Hosiner was one of three Tigers to get a base hit against Ellington. just right of the Silex catcher to avoid the tag, scoring the winning run.
“I had to send him,” Duey said, explaining his decision to send Helms home.
“He’s my fastest runner, he had a full head of steam, and scoring opportunities in this game were rare. Fortunately, it was Eric running, because half a second longer, and he was out on the tag.”
Seymour’s 5-4 victory put the Tigers in the title contest, where Ellington, an 11-6 winner over Skyline, awaited.
Sturdefant was the winning pitcher after throwing a scoreless eighth frame.
However, Duey made sure that senior starting pitcher Brady Brooke received credit for his efforts after lasting a full seven innings.
“We don’t win if not for Brady,” Duey said. “He pitched a very good game for us.”
Brooke went the first seven innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits. He struck out four and walked five, throwing 102 pitches.
Sturdefant pitched the final inning. He struck out two and walked one.
Offensively, the Tigers were led by their No. 9 hitter, sophomore Scott Helms, who had two singles and reached base three times. He had one run batted in (RBI), as it drove home Seymour’s first run in the second inning.
Sturdefant was 1-for-2 with a pair of walks, a double, a sacrifice fly and two RBIs.
Junior Nathan Baker scored three of the Tigers’ five runs.
He was 1-for-2 with a single, two walks and one RBI.
Helms had Seymour’s only other hit.
Sophomore Brock Pearce scored a run.
“The bottom of our lineup, specifically Nathan and Scott, carried us in this game,” Duey said. “Without their contributions, we don’t win.”
The Tigers overcame four fielding errors in the win.
“A couple of double plays really helped us,” Duey noted.
“Above that, Brady pitched out of several tough spots.
“He had a tough first inning. After that, especially in the final three innings he pitched, he really did a great job.”
The next morning at 11 a.m. Friday, Seymour turned around and faced the 28-1 Whippets of Ellington for the state crown.
With Sturdefant on the mound, Ellington opened the game with two hits and two walks, which scored a run and left the bases loaded with no outs.
He struck out the next three batters.
“That was huge,” Duey said. “Ellington easily could’ve scored three or four runs in the first (inning), but Carson made several key pitches and got himself out of trouble with minimal damage. We were in the game.”
Seymour trailed 1-0.
Over the next 3-1/2 innings, no runs were scored.
The Tigers had a pair of scoring opportunities, once advancing a runner to third and twice advancing runners to second base.
In the top of the fifth, a combination of fi elding errors and timely Ellington hits busted the game open, as the Whippets scored four times to increase their lead to 5-0.
Ellington added three runs in the sixth inning, then one more came in the seventh for a 9-0 advantage.
“We hit the ball hard several times, but when we did that, often it was hit at someone,” Duey said. “But give credit to their pitcher. He threw a great game.”
Whippet pitcher Kaleb Richards didn’t walk a single Tiger batter.
Seymour had only three hits. They came from Brooke, Sturdefant and senior Truman Hosiner.
In comparison, Ellington had eight hits and drew six walks. The Tigers also had three errors.
Sturdefant pitched five innings before reaching hit pitch limit. He allowed fi ve runs on seven hits, striking out six with four walks.
Hosiner pitched the final two frames.
He allowed four runs (only one earned) on one hit. He struck out one and walked two.
Richards only needed 82 pitches to record 21 outs for Ellington.