LEMAY • Jake Beckwith entered postseason play with a league-high 27 stolen bases. But none of the Southwest Stars left fielder’s numerous thefts were of home plate.
Until Friday night.
“My coaches have taught me when to do it and when not to,” said a confident Beckwith. “When I started sliding, I just closed my eyes and hoped for the best.”
Beckwith, whose RBI triple in the bottom of the third had just pulled the Stars even with the St. Charles Capitals, broke for home as pitcher Brannon Callaway came to the plate. He slid under the glove of catcher Kyle Schikore to give his team the lead, and the Stars added three more runs in the fifth for a 6-2 victory at Heine Meine Field.
“Jake has tried to steal home a couple of times, so it’s not a surprise,” Stars manager Grayling Tobias said. “Jake has very good speed, and if he gets off the base soon enough, he knows how far to go and is on his own.”
The win sent the fourth-seeded Stars (17-11) into second-round action on Sunday against the winner of Friday’s game between the Stallions and the Barnstormers at 12:30 at Hazelwood Sports Complex. The Capitals (10-20) also play at Hazelwood but will face the loser of that game in the consolation bracket at noon Saturday.
The Capitals trailed 1-0 in the third when Stars starter Kevin Smith issued walks to leadoff hitter Kevin Henke and Zac Clynes. Tyler Ehlmann followed with a double to the right field wall, scoring Henke.
Stars right fielder Arjun Patel then threw to second baseman Taylor Riley, whose relay to catcher Patrick Reda cut down Clynes at the plate. But Schikore followed with a run-scoring single, and the Capitals led 3-2.
However, the Stars answered right back when Desloge reached on an error, followed by Beckwith’s blast and dash. The Stars added to their lead in the fifth with an RBI-single from Desloge and a two-run single by Zach Johnson.
The Stars would have had a couple more runs if not for a brilliant catch by center fielder Mark Jones, who tracked down a deep blast off the bat of Smith. Jones then threw to second to double off Johnson.
The Stars’ ace, Smith improved to 7-1. Though he allowed just four hits and fanned nine, he issued four walks.
“He’s our most consistent pitcher,” Tobias said. “We expect a great effort like this from him every game. He didn’t have his best stuff, and we made some mistakes behind him, but he got stronger as the game developed.”
Capitals manager Mike Buda said his team didn’t take advantage of its opportunities.
“We didn’t do a good job with runners in scoring position,” Buda said. “We gave away at-bats. When you have guys at third base with less than two outs, you’ve got to put the ball in play. We didn’t help ourselves.”
Buda disagreed with the call on the steal of home, which he felt was a game changer.
“The rule is you can’t cross the plate before the ball gets there,” Buda said. “It was a bang-bang play that swung the momentum in their favor.
“But there was still a lot of game left to play. We didn’t play very well, so we can’t look back at that.”
In other SLABA 18 first-round playoff action Friday:
STALLIONS 11, JEFFERSON COUNTY BARNSTORMERS 6 • Spencer Wilmes went 4-for-4 with seven runs batted in to lead the top-seeded Stallions to a come-from-behind victory in the nightcap at Heine Meine.
Wilmes, a St. Dominic graduate headed to Drury University, had two doubles, a triple and two runs scored in the win that advanced the Stallions to Sunday's date with the Stars.
The Stallions jumped to a 4-0 lead only to see the ninth-seeded Barnstormers score the next five runs to take the lead. But the Stallions held a 7-1 advantage the rest of the way to earn the win.
Devon Tolan had two hits and two RBIs to lead the Barnstormers.
ST. LOUIS TIGERS BLACK 11, AMERICAN NATIONAL 6 • Chris Scoles and John Williams each went 3-for-5 to lead the sixth-seeded Tigers to the upset of the No. 3 seed at the Hazelwood Youth Sports Complex.
Five players -- Scoles, James Glunt, Daniel Hogan, Zak Jones and Tim Keathley -- had two RBIs apiece for the Tigers, who will play in the 3 p.m. Sunday winners' bracket semifinal at Hazelwood.
POSTPONEMENT • The fourth first-round game between the second-seeded Jefferson County Blazers and the eighth-seeded Johnny Mac Thunder was postponed due to lightning in the area of St. Charles Community College.
The game, which was in the third inning, will be re-started at 10 a.m. Saturday at Fox High School. The winner will play the Tigers Black on Sunday, while the loser will take on American National at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Hazelwood.
Staff writer Greg Uptain contributed information to this report.