Cardinal baseball team ends season with trip to state tournament
The Eudora Cardinals came up short of a state baseball title last weekend in Hutchinson, but learned they could stay competitive against some of the state's elite teams.
The United States Specialty Sports Association 16-and-under team's second-place finish in the Ottawa tournament and the state tournament qualification were the peaks of a roller coaster 30-game season. During season play, the Cardinals' bats started to heat up behind the efforts of sophomores Jared Pringle, Troy Van Horn, Brandon Werst and Aaron Westerhouse among others.
"We definitely had our ups and downs," coach Dirk Kinney said. "Our pitching staff of juniors John Born and Heath Fanning and sophomore Chris Gabriel did an extremely good job."
However, the thrills of a stellar summer season came to halt Friday and Saturday at Hobart Detter Field in Hutchinson. Eudora faced a series of teams that boasted handpicked talent from across their respective metropolitan areas of Johnson County, Topeka and Wichita. The Cardinals played with a roster full of Eudorans plus two Wellsville players.
Kinney, who also serves as the pitching coach at Eudora High School, and his assistants, Mike Westerhouse and Tim Pringle, were proud to see the team reach the state tournament. Both Westerhouse and Pringle donated money to make the team's trip to Hutchinson a reality.
"It was a great experience for the kids and they should be proud that they made it there," Kinney said. "This is not a team from the area, just Eudora (and two from Wellsville). It was a great accomplishment to get there."
In the first game, the Cardinals faced the Wichita Tornadoes, a team that went undefeated in tournament play. Although Eudora lost 9-1 in the opening game of round robin play, the team gave its next three opponents all they could handle.
Behind the pitching arm of Born, Eudora trailed Shawnee Mission West, which used players from across the Shawnee Mission district, 2-0 at the end of the fifth inning. Born was able to get the Cardinals out of two bases-loaded situations early in the game before West powered its way to an 8-3 victory.
"Our pitching was pretty good in the tournament against Shawnee Mission West, but we may have walked too many batters," Kinney said. "Hitting was lacking for most of the tournament and we didn't always take advantage of the situations when we should have."
out the tournament both offensively and defensively. The EHS junior went 6-10 over the course of the four games and gave the Cardinals a 2-1 fourth-inning lead against the Topeka Hornets, an all-star team from the Topeka area. The Hornets eventually battled back and emerged to an 8-4 victory.
"Fanning threw a spectacular game against the Topeka team," Kinney said. "We were up on Topeka, but we missed a couple of signs and didn't do the little things."
In the final game of round robin play, the Cardinals lost to area rival Mill Valley 7-3 despite a well-pitched game from Gabriel.
Mike Westerhouse was pleased with the team's ability to qualify for the tournament and their competitive nature during the games in Hutchinson.
"I am proud of these boys," Mike Westerhouse said. "I wish we could have executed a few plays differently, but I think we have great talent in the team and I look forward to fall ball starting soon."
Kinney said the tournament would help these EHS baseball players as they prepare for the high school season in the spring.
"We were in almost every game but the difference was fielding the baseball," Kinney said. "This makes things a lot more competitive with these young kids coming up."