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Cardinals dominate in wood bat tournament

Apr. 14—The Red Division of the first-ever Walkoff Wood Bat Co. High School Wood Bat Tournament was dominated by one team, and it's the team that has asserted itself as the best in St. Joseph this season.

The Benton Cardinals capped off the championship of the Red Division with a 8-2 win over Harrisonville, joining Northland Christian and Womego as the three champions of the three separate brackets for the first iteration of the local wood bat tournament.

"Whenever this opportunity came up to play in the Walkoff Wood Bat tournament, we jumped all over it," Benton head coach Johnny Coy said.

The tournament was split into three divisions: red, blue and white. Games were played across several locations in St. Joseph and Savannah. Benton dominated its competition in the three games of the red division bracket, leaving little room for hope for any of its opponents. The Cardinals averaged nearly 10 runs per game, while allowing just one run per game to its competition through three games in the tournament.

The success through 18 games this season, currently 15-3 overall, is something the team could have seen coming. The seniors on the Benton roster have played with each other since their freshman year. Carson Schmidt is one of those players, and he sees that all facets of the team's game are clicking. The team also came into this season with a chip on its shoulder, coming in as runners-up in their district a year ago.

"It feels great. Coming off of a second place district last year sucked. So I think the team chemistry is really good and better than last year. The bats are hot, pitching is good," Schmidt said.

In a game where everything was on the line on Saturday against a Harrisonville team with a winning record coming into the red division championship game, Benton turned to freshman pitcher Zaidyn Woodward. Woodward saw two runs come across home plate in the first inning, but was able to stabilize his play on the mound, and pitch five scoreless innings until he was pulled after the sixth inning.

"I was a little anxious the first two batters, couldn't find the strike zone very much. Then towards the later innings, I started finding my off-speed and spotting on my fastball and that was leading to soft contact," Woodward said.

The tournament championship wrapped up six games in six days for the Cardinals, but they won't have much time to relax as they'll have to turn right around on Monday for the first round of the Pony Express Tournament which also features conference opponents such as Maryville, Savannah and Chillicothe.

Jacob Meikel can be reached at jacob.meikel@newspressnow.com.

Follow him on Twitter @NPNowMeikel.