By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
LONE JACK - The last time Conner Musser started on the mound in a postseason game, he was pulled in the first inning after surrendering eight runs, including a grand slam against Mid-Buchanan in the district final.
Then, he pitched the seventh inning and got the save in four at-bats.
On Wednesday, Musser spotted Lone Jack (18-7) a couple of runs early, but was undaunted.
The junior held the Mules scoreless over his final four innings, and East Buchanan put up five runs in the sixth inning to defeat Lone Jack 10-3 in a Class 2 quarterfinal, sending the Bulldogs to their first Final Four in program history.
Musser felt better after the Bulldogs' offense was able to spot him a 5-1 lead by the middle of the second.
"Run support really helped out," Musser said. "I pitch a lot better when I have a lead. Thanks to my teammates, they put some runs on the board for me and they let me go and do me."
After allowing two hits and surrendering two walks in those first two innings, Musser responded by striking out two of four batters faced in the third and then putting the side down in order in the fourth.
Much like that Mid-Buchanan game, Bulldogs coach Dave Elms could tell that once Musser refocused, he had better control all around.
"He settled in, threw strikes and pumped the zone with a lot of strikes," Elms said. "He got himself back into a more controllable game. He did a nice job of throwing strikes and settling in."
After a quick start offensively, which included a double by Matthew Liechti in the first inning and another by Cameron Henry in the second, East Buchanan was held without a hit in the third, fourth and fifth innings.
Then, with relief pitcher Cade McNeeley on the mound for Lone Jack, the Bulldogs teed off in the sixth with four straight hits to lead off the frame, including a two-run RBI single by senior Blake Antle which put East Buchanan ahead 8-3.
A groundball by Luke Webb and a throwing error allowed two more runs to come in, giving the Bulldogs a comfortable lead heading to the final inning.
"It was a great feeling," Antle said. "I mean, we gave Conner some cushion. He pitched a great game, and we hit the ball well."
Sophomore Bronco Whitt pitched the final inning, striking out one and retiring the side in four at-bats. A 4-3 double play ended the game, and East Buchanan made history all over again.
First district title, first sectional win and now first ever trip to the Final Four.
The Bulldogs (17-8) will face Holcomb in the semifinal round on Monday at 4 p.m. at US Baseball Park in Ozark.
Holcomb (20-5) defeated Meadow Heights 19-0 on Wednesday.
As one would expect, another great challenge awaits East Buchanan as they continue their postseason charge. But, whatever happens from here, members of this Bulldog team can look back and remember all of the history they've already made.
"It's a great feeling," Antle said. "We had never even won a district championship here. And, we can go back years later and show our kids 20 years into the future like, 'That was us.' We're still making history. Hopefully, we can win state."
**You can hear both East Buchanan games in the state semifinals LIVE on 680 AM and 95.3 FM KFEQ. They'll also stream live at 680kfeq.com.**
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