Rockwood Summit ends Cape Central baseball team's surprising run in Class 4 state quarterfinals

Friday, May 25, 2012
Central players listen to their coaches after a season-ending loss to Rockwood Summit in the Class 4 state quarterfinals Thursday in Fenton, Mo. Rockwood Summit won 13-2 in six innings. (ADAM VOGLER)

FENTON, Mo. -- Central starting pitcher Aaron Wendel slammed the ball into his glove in frustration as coach Steve Williams walked to the mound before an out was recorded in the first inning Thursday.

Wendel handed the ball to Williams before the lonely walk back to the dugout, where he grabbed a seat and buried his face in his hands.

The Tigers' season, which included a paltry 4-14 start before an eight-game winning streak and district title, took a cruel turn against host Rockwood Summit in a Class 4 state baseball quarterfinal.

The first eight batters reached safely to start the game, including a pair of home runs, and the Falcons opened an eight-run lead before the Tigers even stepped to the plate on a windy afternoon.

"It was awesome," Rockwood Summit senior Jacob Manier said. "We've never done that before. The first guy just started it off and we kept it rolling."

Central pitcher Aaron Wendel reacts after giving up a home run to a Rockwood Summit batter during the first inning of the Class 4 state quarterfinal game Thursday in Fenton Mo. Rockwood Summit scored eight runs in the inning on its way to a 13-2 victory in six innings. (ADAM VOGLER)

The Falcons, who were the visitors in the game because they lost the coin toss, finally ended the Tigers' incredible late-season run when they struck for four runs in the sixth inning for an early end to the 13-2 victory.

"We've been down like that, but it's been a while," Central junior Ramsey Scott said. "We've been playing better and surely didn't expect that today."

Adversity was nothing new for the Tigers. Their season started slowly, but coach Steve Williams preached the importance of patience. He maintained that message even when his team lost 14 of its first 18 games.

"We just talked about if you continue to work hard and continue to do things the right way, it will turn around," Williams said. "Now you can't predict when it will turn around, but it finally did. And when it did, it turned hard in our direction."

The Tigers' last loss before Thursday's setback came against Kennett in the SEMO Conference tournament April 28. They entered the Class 4 District 1 tournament as the No. 6 seed but refused to play like it. The Tigers defeated rival Jackson in their district opener, which sparked their run to their second consecutive district championship. Central's magic continued through Tuesday's sectional upset over Festus to reach the state quarterfinals for the second consecutive season.

Central senior Vance Toole scores on a home run by Ramsey Scott during the first inning.

"It makes me very proud, and I hope it makes the other guys very proud because coming from 4-14 all the way to 12-15 and the quarterfinals again this year, same as we did last year," Central senior Christian Cavaness said. "You're going to be sad about it now, but when you look back at the entire year and how we came back from that record, you can't do anything but smile about it."

The Tigers' run worried Rockwood Summit coach Ken Droege.

"What a great ride they just had," he said. "I was very worried coming in because they had so much momentum and they were playing so well. At this time of year, that can easily catapult you through a game like this."

Droege's worries quickly dissipated Thursday. The Falcons collected five consecutive hits, including two homers, to open against Wendel. That's when Williams replaced him with Ethan Dambach.

"I told Aaron, I said, ‘You know what, the more you pitch, the more that's going to happen,'" Williams said. "It was unfortunate it happened today."

LEFT: Central first baseman Ramsey Scott circles the bases after hitting a two-run home run during the first inning of the Tigers’ Class 4 quarterfinal game against Rockwood Summit. RIGHT: Central pitcher Ethan Dambach throws during the first inning.

The Falcons weren't done in the first. Rockwood Summit scored three more times in the inning, including a pair on an errant pickoff throw by the Tigers' catcher, to put Central in an 8-0 hole.

"At the end of the inning, we talked about it can't get much worse," Williams said. "So it's going to get better, and it did get better. We scored two and at least made it a ballgame there in the middle innings. That's a tough situation, and the longer you play, the more everybody's going to be in a situation like that."

Cavaness said it had been many years since he'd been involved in a game that became so lopsided so quickly.

"The last time was when I was really little, even before eighth-grade baseball or anything like that," he said. "It was a while back, but it can happen any time. It can happen for them, it could happen to us. You've just got to respond to it, and we did good scoring the two runs in that one inning."

The Tigers started to claw back in their half of the first inning. Vance Toole singled with one out and scored on Scott's home run to right field to trim Central's deficit to 8-2.

Cape Central pitcher Ethan Dambach throws during the first inning of the Tigers' 13-2, six-inning, run-rule loss to Rockwood Summit Thursday, May 24, in the Class 4 quarterfinal in Felton. (ADAM VOGLER)

"We had to answer," Scott said. "We had to get at least one run. It's kind of hard to come back from that big of a lead, but we knew if we put the bats together, we probably could make a run at it."

But Central could not get any closer. The Tigers only managed two singles against Rockwood Summit starter Brian Quasebarth after the first inning. He struck out seven and the Falcons only committed one error.

"I could spot my fastball, probably better than I have been for a while, and my changeup was always there," Quasebarth said. "And if I needed to, I could go to my curveball."

Manier tormented the Tigers a final time in the sixth inning. His three-run double pushed the Falcons' lead to 10 runs, and Jack Quick's RBI single provided the final margin.

"I think obviously the wind helped us out, but the whole team struck it really well," Quasebarth said. "I was proud."

Central fell one win short of the final four for the second consecutive season, but considering where the Tigers were midway through the season, it was difficult to focus on the negative.

"Like I told our kids afterward, don't you leave this park not appreciating what you accomplished this year," Williams said. "It would be easy to leave disappointed today, and we're all disappointed, but when you get away from it, I hope that they understand what they were able to accomplish and from where they were able to accomplish it."

Summit801004--13131
Central200000--243

WP -- Brian Quasebarth. LP -- Aaron Wendel. HR -- Matt Kaysinger (RS), Eric Beisel (RS), Jacob Manier (RS), Ramsey Scott (C). 2B -- Manier (RS). Multiple hits -- Rockwood Summit: Clayton Evans 2-3, Quasebarth 2-5, Beisel 2-4, Manier 3-4, Jack Quick 2-3; Central: Scott 2-3. Records -- Rockwood Summit 17-9, Central 12-15.

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