Rebels end season with fourth place at nationals
All good things must come to an end.
For the Midwest Rebels, their baseball season ended after claiming fourth-place in the National Baseball Congress "Hap" Dumont 15-and-under World Series in Greenfield, Ind., July 25 through 31.
The Rebels were seeded third in the double-elimination tournament after finishing 3-2 in pool play. In first round action, they defeated the Greenwood (Ind.) Lightning 5-2 and fell to the Indiana Bandits 10-6. They earned a forfeit against the Edgewood All-Stars in second round competition and faced the Wichita Eagles July 29, defeating them 8-2.
Daren Parker was the winning pitcher. Ryan Jorgensen relieved to close the game.
Luke Abel and Brian Heere were both two-for-four, each with a double and a run. Travis Blankenship was one-for-four with a double and a run.
Two double plays were made during the game. One was crucial, taking away a run at third, leaving the Eagles with no runs scored in that inning.
"It was a key play in a critical situation," coach John Griffin said.
The team faced the Sulphur Springs Astros from Texas the next day and claimed a 5-2 win. Blankenship was the winning pitcher. He also had a double and scored once. Jeremy Wright had a single and scored.
"Our impression with the Sulphur Springs Astros through pool play was that they would be the team to beat coming out of the winners' bracket," Griffin said. "They got beat by the Tennessee Hornets, the team that eventually won the tournament, putting the Astros in the losers' bracket as our next opponent.
"This late in the tournament, physical fatigue and the caliber of competition left us concerned about the match-up with the Astros. Fortunately, it was the coaching staff only that was concerned. The 11 Rebels players went out and took care of business.
"After falling to a 2-0 deficit, we scored five unanswered runs with a strong pitching performance by Travis Blankenship, outstanding team defense, timely hitting, solid base running and that "never say never" attitude."
Griffin said the game against the Astros was probably the one game out of the 11 played that the Rebels got a key hit in every opportunity when it was needed.
The Rebels took on the Louisiana Tigers later that evening and ended their stint in the national tournament with a 7-1 loss, claiming fourth place in the tournament.
"The key to that was it was a 2-1 ball game in the seventh inning," Griffin said. "With the 11th game in six days, physical fatigue was setting in. The Rebels coaches used four different pitchers against the Louisiana Tigers.
"In the top of the seventh, in a 2-1 ballgame, the Rebels, unfortunately, gave up five runs to put the game out of reach," he said.
"The Louisiana Tigers are a national powerhouse year in and year out. To be eliminated in the tournament by the Tigers is nothing to be ashamed of."
The Tennessee Hornets, whom the Rebels faced early in the tournament during pool play and lost to 3-2 in nine innings, claimed the championship after facing the Louisiana Tigers twice. The Hornets lost the first game 13-2 but came back in the second game against the Tigers, claiming the trophy with a 5-3 win. The Indiana Bandits lost to the Tigers 6-1, claim third in the tourney.
Griffin said it was unfortunate that three of the team's regular players and one of the coaches were unable to attend because of prior commitments.
"Fortunately, we were able to add Kyle (Brouhard) and Travis (Blankenship) to our team," he said. "We also appreciate Brad Wright's willingness to step up and help with (coaching) the team. It was a wonderful experience."
Players from Eudora, Baldwin and Lawrence composed the Midwest Rebels.
"I'm very proud of a group of kids from Douglas County, Kansas, who can go and compete against national caliber teams from numerous states and epitomize sportsmanship, teamwork and 'never say die' attitudes."
Griffin said the challenge at the beginning of the season was to take 23 kids from Baldwin, Eudora and Lawrence, set aside school district boundaries and preconceived rival relationships, and mold a 16-and-under squad and a 15-and-under squad.
The 16-year-old Rebels won the Father's Day tournament in Ottawa and eventually competed in the state tournament, going 2-1.
"Unfortunately, they were eliminated because of two more runs allowed than the other two teams that advanced to the championship," Griffin said. "But it was comforting to realize that the only team that beat the 16-and-under state champions, the Northwest Cougars, was the 16-and-under Midwest Rebels."
The 15-year-olds won the Summer Blowout 15-and-under AAA tournament in Ottawa, qualifying for the state tournament. The team took second place in the Kansas United States Specialty Sports Association AAA state tournament and advanced to the NBC national World Series in Indiana, placing fourth.
"In reflection, it makes you realize the efforts of Coach (Dirk) Kinney, Coach (Brian) Ash, Coach (Phil) Hannon and all 25 players that wore a Rebels uniform this summer, and the lifelong memories that were made for these young men," Griffin said.
Team members who traveled to Indiana were Luke Abel, Mark Abel, Marc Albers, Travis Blankenship, Kyle Brouhard, Chad Griffin, Brian Heere, Ryan Jorgensen, Daren Parker, Rodney Spillman and Jeremy Wright and coaches Brian Ash, John Griffin and Brad Wright. Those not able to attend because of other commitments were John Brown, Aaron Hannon, Cory Wright and coach Phil Hannon.
The grand finale for both teams will be the season-ending banquet Aug. 17 at the Baldwin City pool for recreation and reflection of the season.
"I'm sorry that a great season for both clubs had to come to an end, but I can't wait until next spring to sit in the stands and watch Baldwin High School versus Eudora High School coaches and players hook it up. It will be the best ticket in town."