Levi Helm and the McDonald County Mustang were charged for their last Class 5, District 7 baseball game of the regular season.
Helm took just one hit and made nine in a complete game attempt on the mound. Helm also scored a pair of home runs twice, including one in the bottom half of the fifth quarter as the Mustang left Neosho, 12-2, in five innings on Saturday.
McDonald County led 1-0 early at the bottom of the first inning and then scored eight runs at the bottom of the second to break the game.
Overall, the Mustang finished with 11 strokes and improved to 3-0 in the district game.
“From the moment we got here you could tell our boys were ready to play,” said Mustang head coach Kevin Burgi. “They were loose. Our dugout was very good and, of course, our energy and effort on the pitch was very, very good. There was definitely a lot to be proud of today.”
Helm finished with three strokes, three strokes and four RBI, while Cross Dowd scored two strokes, one run and RBI to lead the Mustang on the plate.
McDonald County scored their first goal of the first half as Helm and Isaac Behm singled out each and Cross Dowd followed with an RBI single to score Helm’s goal and lead 1-0.
The Mustang returned to work in the second set. Destyn Dowd was hit by a throw and stole second base, and Sanny Fischer opted to score Destyn Dowd to make it 2-0.
Rylan Armstrong pinched a run for Fischer and moved to base when Colton Ruddick picked. Cole Martin tied the RBI double and Tucker Walters hit a mistake to score two more.
Helm homered to the left of the field to make it 7-0.
Behm went on and Cross Dowd was selected and both then scored, with Behm crossing the plate at Weston Gordon’s sacrificial flies and Cross Dowd scoring a mistake to take a 9-0 lead.
The Mustangs were set to pick up another pace in the third quarter when Martin took the lead on foot and came on to score on outfield selection Behm.
That was more than enough for Helm (4-1), who had two strikeouts in the first inning and went sideways, looking, in the second. Helm then struck two more hitters in the third set.
“I definitely didn’t have my best stuff today,” Helm said. “The ball finally came late in the game. But once I got into the zone, I could throw attacks and command the zone.”
Burgi saw Helm struggle past him early in the game.
“Helmets are really good all year round,” said Burgi. “He’s back on a short break. And, to be honest, he’ll probably tell you he might not be at his best. But he’s had a lot of life in his fastball and, when you lead the zone, good things happen. proud of the boy.”
The only mistake Helm made was in the fourth inning. After Neosho’s Carson Williams made a mistake, Wyatt Shadwick hit two home runs to left-center of the court to put the Wildcats (9-6) in 10-2.
“It must have been a mistake,” Helm said. “I left the ball on the plate way too much, and you can’t do that at a high school baseball game. He managed to swing it well and take his hat off to him.”
Helm’s mistakes eventually turned into opportunities later on.
Martin goes with one at the bottom of the fifth. After Walters was punished, Helm ended the game with two second home runs.
“I told (Helmet) before the game he was going to the yard,” Martin said, “and he went twice.”
It was Helm’s second walk-off hit of the year after hitting RBI singles to beat Webb City 2-1 in a district game on April 5. He said it was the first time he’d ever had a walk-off home run.
The win makes McDonald County the top seed in the upcoming district tournament next month.
“This is our last district game and it is enough to make us the No. 1 seed in the districts,” Helm said. “We knew we would see them again, eventually, so to be able to make that statement was a big thing for us.”
Martin said, “I mean, we’ve been playing together since we were little. We just have to keep going. Don’t look forward to anything, just keep on the gas and that’s it.”
Burgi is pleased with how the Mustang (13-4) is ready to play in the district game.
“I knew we were ready to play. Whatever it means for seeding, that’s what it means,” said Burgi. “I think this group has done a really good job and now we keep playing better and keep getting better.”
McDonald County 6, Monett 0
The McDonald County Mustang is stingy on the mound and greedy on the basepath in rolling to a 6-0 home win over the Monett Cubs on Thursday, April 14.
The Mustangs improved to 12-4 overall and 2-0 in the Western Conference Top 8 while the Cubs slumped to 4-9 and 0-2.
Junior thrower Weston Gordon (3-1) held off the Cubs throughout, limiting Monett’s batting to two in the first inning and one in the seventh round on the attack nine.
“Weston threw really well,” said Mustang coach Kevin Burgi. “As last year went on he found his breakthrough ball and worked his way forward on the count and that’s what he did today. That’s what made him so good last year. We expect that from him. He’s starting to find his groove and his last two starts were really good. “
McDonald County capitalized on four of Monett’s errors in the game, starting in the second inning when Gordon was hit by a throw before being replaced by polite runner Rylan Armstrong, who would score on a throw-in after Destyn Dowd walked.
After stealing the second and third, Dowd scored on an infield single by Fischer Sanny to lead Mustang 2-0.
McDonald County pushed their lead to 5-0 at the bottom of the fourth quarter. Cross Dowd started the rally by doubling to the right, stealing third base and scoring on a throw-in error in the game.
Armstrong again went in to catch up to Gordon, who managed to equalize and was soon moved to second on the back of Monett’s pitcher Marcus Young. Destyn Dowd then pushed Armstrong into third with a sacrificial kick and scored from there on wild court to take a 4-0 lead.
Colton Ruddick was hit with two outs and advanced to third with a shot to the right by Cole Martin. Ruddick scored on another wild field, sending the Mustangs in front by a 5-0 margin.
“We did what we had to do to score,” said Burgi. “We knew running was going to be hard to come by today and you have to tip (Young) today. He was very good on the pitch, so we knew we had to do these little things.”
McDonald County’s final run came in the fifth round when Isaac Behm doubled two-outs to the left, stole the third and scored on a wild throw to third by the catcher.
“I’d love to execute it,” said Burgi, “but sometimes it even shows that it’s huge and we can do it today. And we can run the base.”
Young (2-2) scored eight, went three and allowed only four strokes before hitting the mandated throw limit of 105 for a game.
“He played a great game,” said Monett coach Michael Calhoun. “The only reason I took him out was because of the tone count. I tried to get as much out of him as possible. I’m really happy with how he looks. He did a great job.”
Regarding facing Gordon, Calhoun said, “He throws hard. I like our shots. We hit the ball hard a few times but got right at people and we got a few hits. They made a good defensive game.”
He said McDonald County was “a great football club,” adding, “Kevin did a really good job with them. They played better than we did today.”
McDonald County 17, Newton East 4
The Mustangs scored five runs in each of the first three innings to take an early 15-3 lead in a 17-4 win at East Newton on Tuesday, April 19.
Mustang improved to 14-4 overall and 2-0 in the West’s Top 8 game.
Isaac Behm homered, scored four runs and had four RBIs, while Destyn Dowd had three hits, scored two runs, and had an RBI. Tucker Walters scored two strokes, three strokes and two RBIs, while Cross Dowd scored two strokes and one stroke and RBI. Fischer Sanny had a double and three RBIs, while Jack Parnell had two hits, including a double, and an RBI. Colton Ruddick scored two runs, while Cole Martin, Levi Helm, Angel Ruiz and Rylan Armstrong each scored one.
Weston Gordon (4-1) clinched the win with five strikeouts and three runs gained, while Destyn Dowd and Behm each delivered a comforting inning.
The Mustang is back in action at home Thursday against Cassville in another Big 8 Conference game.
— Staff Writer Bennett Horne contributed to this report.