T-Birds' rally falls short in District 8 semifinal loss to Hallsville

MONTGOMERY CITY — No. 2 seed Hallsville came up with three runs in the top of the eighth inning to trip the No. 3 North Callaway Thunderbirds 11-8 in the Class 3, District 8 semifinals Tuesday night.

North Callaway trailed 5-0 after one inning and was down 8-6 going to the bottom of the seventh, but rallied for two runs to tie it and extend the game. Hallsville manufactured its three decisive runs in the eighth on two hits, an error, a pair of passed balls and a wild pitch, and three fielder’s choices.

Senior Nate VanBoening drew a leadoff walk to start the Thunderbirds’ half of the eighth, but North Callaway was then retired in order to end the game.

The Thunderbirds — who out-hit the Indians 11-10 but had just one extra-base hit — finished their season with a 14-9 record. Both teams committed five errors. North Callaway had previously lost to Hallsville 9-5 in the third-place game of the Fulton Tournament on May 9.

“This game (Tuesday night) was like our season — we committed errors that got us into trouble,” Thunderbirds head coach Kevin O’Neal said. “But the team never quit and fought back, and was able to catch up, but we ended up losing to a good team.”

The Indians (12-8) bolted to a quick lead when they put up five runs in the first. North Callaway cut into the deficit when it scraped together three runs in the third. Senior Chance Kee had an RBI fielder’s choice and freshman Wyatt Branson made it 5-3 when he rapped a two-run double to right-center.

Hallsville increased its lead with three more runs in the fourth, but the Thunderbirds answered again with three of their own in the fifth to close the gap. Senior Tanner Murphy and Kee both scored on throwing errors by the Indians, while junior Michael Early’s RBI single pulled North Callaway within 8-6.

The Thunderbirds then found new life when they tied the game with their two runs in the seventh on RBI singles from junior Trevor Crisp and Early.

Branson finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored, while Early was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and Crisp went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Murphy also finished 3-for-5 and scored twice, while Kee was 1-for-5 with an RBI and scored three times.

Kee (1-3) — working the final four innings in relief of Murphy — allowed three runs, only one earned, on three hits in suffering the loss. He struck out eight and issued three walks. Murphy surrendered eight runs — only one earned — on seven hits over the first four innings, striking out two and walking two.

Top-seeded Centralia sidestepped an upset bid in holding off No. 5 Hermann 9-8 in Tuesday night’s other semifinal. The Panthers (15-6) play Hallsville for the District 8 title at 5 p.m. today.

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