District champions for the first time in 27 years, the Spoofhound baseball team makes its long-awaited return to the playoffs tonight at 6 p.m. against Richmond in sectionals.
The game was supposed to be played Monday night, but wet field conditions in Richmond caused it to be moved back a day. This means the winner will have to play again the following night against either Fatima or Holden at a site yet to be determined.
Maryville and Richmond were both No. 2 seeds in their district and upset a No. 1 seed they had lost to twice during the regular season to get to this point.
The Hounds won a high-scoring affair over Bishop LeBlond 18-11 in the District 16 championship game last Tuesday. Richmond knocked off Lawson 6-4 in the District 15 championship game.
Maryville and Richmond have not played each other in any recent season, but share two common opponents—Savannah and Smithville.
The Hounds lost to Savannah twice and once to Smithville in the regular season finale. Richmond rallied from a four-run deficit to beat Savannah 11-7 in the Excelsior Springs Tournament and lost to Smithville 9-5.
"Looking at some teams we've played that they've played, I feel very good about where we are," said Maryville head baseball coach Matt Houchin. "We match up with them very well, at least. We have to play error-fee and get our bats going and keep them hot."
An underdog on paper, Maryville (5-10) has the fewest amount of wins of any team in the Class 3 playoff field. The Hounds are also one of just four teams under .500, but their regular season schedule consisted almost entirely of games against Class 4 teams from the MEC.
Richmond (11-6) is tied for the second lowest win total in the Class 3 playoffs. The Spartans played most of their regular season games against teams in the Missouri River Valley Conference.
"When you play day in and day out in the MEC, you're playing very top quality opponents," said Houchin. "This year, those are all, except LeBlond, Class 4 opponents. So you throw the records out. It doesn't mean anything now. It's time to go play and keep extending your season."
Heating up at exactly the right time, Maryville averaged 15 runs per game in the district tournament and outscored the opposition 30-13.
It marked only the second time all year the Hounds have won consecutive games. They have yet to win three in a row.
"They're definitely playing their best baseball offensively, defensively," said Houchin. "Our pitching looks pretty good. Everything is kind of falling into place at the right time."
Maryville has five seniors among its starting nine, none of which had made it past the first round of districts until this year.
Page 2 of 2 - Senior third baseman Ridge Yount and senior shortstop Jonathan Baker form a strong left side of the infield and are two of the teams most productive hitters. Baker was 4-for-6 in the district finals with three RBIs, while Yount had three hits.
Senior centerfielder Tyler Tripp hit a three-run homer during a nine-run first inning and Jarret Cronin had a pair of run-producing hits.
Three of Richmond's main lineup cogs are Reid Summers, Quinton Maxwell and catcher Matt Stafford.
Maxwell and Stafford each had three hits in the district finals win over Lawson, and the Spartans totaled 14.
Maryville knows to be especially careful with Summers.
"They've got a few really good players," said Houchin. "The Summers kid has a great, great bat. In talking to some other people, he's very tough to get out. He's a very good athlete."
Maryville plans to give senior Shane Owens the start, while Richmond is likely to counter with either Summers or Jimmy Hamm.
Owens has been Maryville's top starter all year and worked the first four-plus innings in the district title game. Baker finished it off with 2 1/3 scoreless innings.
Hamm threw the first five innings against Lawson and Summers came in to finish it.
"You can't try to save anybody for the next game," said Houchin. "We got to keep winning."