Lightning didn’t keep Junior Cardinals from striking
Not even Mother Nature could derail the 9- and 10-year-old Junior Cardinals quest for a United States Specialty Sports Association class A state tournament Championship in Basehor the last weekend of July.
"We had four better pitchers than anyone we faced in that tournament," Coach Don Ballock said. "The kids really improved. They were just a real good class of 10-year-olds."
Eudora (21-0) faced the De Soto Scrappers in the championship game of the tournament. The game was a slugfest from the start, as the teams were tied at eight after two innings. Both teams' hitting cooled off a bit, and the Junior Cardinals were behind 10-9 at the bottom of the fourth inning.
Threatening weather almost cost the Eudora team the championship at the end of the fourth inning, the minimum number for an official game. The umpire delayed the game for 15 minutes because of lightning, but fortunately for the Junior Cardinals, play resumed.
In the top of the fifth, Matt Schultz drove in a pair of runs with a line drive double, bringing home Austin Vickers and Connor Scott.
In Eudora's next at-bat, Craig Harper provided the crucial run, giving the team a two-run lead 12-10. Drew Noble and Justin Ballock each hit singles that inning with Noble scoring the insurance run they would ultimately need to win,13-10.
In the bottom of the sixth, Tyler Beebe gave up two runs but struck out the final batter to win the championship 13-12.
Ballock said winning a championship as a coach was just as special as winning two high school baseball championships in Michigan.
"It was big for my son," Ballock said. "I played on a couple (championship teams) in high school. I knew what it was like to play on one. It was kind of nice he got to experience it."
Prior to the championship game, nail-biters were few and far between for the Junior Cardinals. The Eudora pitching staff delivered no-hitters in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds with different pitchers. Because pitchers could only appear on the mound for a maximum of nine innings in two days, Ballock did a lot of rotation.
Eudora defeated the Edwardsville Twisters 16-0 with Noble and Ballock combining for a perfect game. The Junior Cards defeated the De Soto Indians 14-1 in another no-hitter effort. Beebe and Ballock combined for another no-hitter, but the Indians scored their only run off walks.
In pool play, the Junior Cardinals defeated two home teams, Basehor MSI, 14-3, and Bonee Construction of Basehor, 17-2. Tanner Byrne hit a 215-foot home run in the first game, while Scott reached base six times.
"Some of the teams were tougher than they looked on paper," Ballock said. "We beat some pretty good teams pretty handily."
The Junior Cardinals won their league and the league tournament in Eudora with a 16-0 record. Their only challenge was the championship game of the league tournament against Wellsville. The Junior Cardinals trailed 5-3 in the fifth inning with two outs, but came back to win.
"The kids were excited about that," Ballock said. "We didn't have a lot of close games during the season."
The Junior Cardinals picked up three players from other Eudora teams in the league for the Basehor tournament: Scott, Schultz and Austin Vickers.
Ballock said the support of assistant coaches Kent Noble and Brete Byrne, the fans, and all the players contributed to the team's success this summer.