Piper loots Eudora’s state hopes at regionals
Eudora's dreams of a state championship were trampled Tuesday in Tonganoxie. Blowing a 3-0 fifth inning lead, the Cardinals fell 7-3 to the Piper Pirates in the first round of regional play.
Eudora finished the season with a school-record 14 wins to just five losses, but the success only makes the heartache that much stronger.
"These kids broke nearly every school record," coach Dirk Kinney said proudly. "They set a standard here that if we don't win 14 games, we won't be happy."
Eudora came out strong.
The Cardinals turned the ball over to emerging star sophomore Rod Evinger. The young lefty had allowed only one run in nearly 23 innings. His trend toward invincibility seemed secure as he struck out the first two hitters of the game and then struck out the side in the third. In the meantime, the Cards were giving Evinger the lead.
Eudora junior Troy VanHorn led off the second inning, spanking a double off the right field wall. Seniors Heath Fanning and Tyler Jackson followed with a pair of strikeouts. Junior second baseman Monte Steffey then knocked a clutch two-out liner over shortstop, scoring VanHorn. A wild pitch moved Steffey to second, and sophomore Cole Massey's single placed runners at the corners. Massey stole second, placing two runners in scoring position for senior Steven Rehmer. In the biggest missed opportunity of the game, Rehmer struck out looking on three pitches.
In the third, Evinger reached first on a lead-off walk. Freshman Mark Abel, just called up from junior varsity, courtesy ran for Evinger. Abel advanced to second on a wild pitch and to third on junior Aaron Westerhouse's groundout. Senior all-everything Andrew Pyle brought Abel home with a sacrifice to right field. The speedy Abel just edged Piper right fielder Matt Parmalee's surprisingly strong throw to the plate. The close play at the plate prompted Kinney to acknowledge his junior varsity addition with, "Hey Rook that's why I have you up here."
VanHorn then took the next pitch deep over the right field wall for a solo home run. The ball cleared the fence in almost the exact place that he had hit his double. VanHorn finished with two of Eudora's five hits.
The Cardinals led 3-0 with their budding ace on the mound.
In the top of the fourth, the Pirates did manage a couple of base runners, but Evinger got out of the jam without any damage.
The Cards went quietly in their half of the fourth and the game moved into the late innings with Eudora still leading 3-0.
In the fifth, the Piper lead-off batter smashed a ball deep over the left field fence -- foul by mere inches. He instead grounded out to short, the first out of the inning.
A hit-batsman and a wild pitch placed a Piper player at second. An infield ground-out placed the runner at third with two outs. A subsequent seeing-eye single up the middle scored a run. The next batter drilled a double down the left field line placing the tying runs in scoring position for Piper star senior Daniel Rezin. After working the count in his favor 3-0, Kinney elected to issue an intentional walk loading the bases for the Pirates cleanup hitter Tyler Lynnes.
Evinger looked to regroup and delivered a beautiful fastball at the knees for strike one. His next pitch was intended to be a curveball just off the plate. The pitch, however, caught a lot of the plate and a lot of Lynnes' bat as he crushed it over the left field fence, earning a grand slam.
Eudora senior reliever Tyler Wingebach took over for the stunned Evinger and ended the damage at five runs.
A frazzled Cardinal team exited the fifth 1-2-3, trailing 5-3.
Wingebach steadied the game capping off a 1-2-3 inning with a strikeout.
In the bottom half of the sixth, Eudora managed to get runners at the corners with two outs. Steffey, this time however, grounded out benignly to short.
Senior Seth Johnson, Eudora's top starter, came in to pitch the seventh. A series of defensive mistakes, coupled with some general misfortune, led to two more Piper runs and an ultimately insurmountable deficit.
The Cardinals went down in order in the seventh.
A complex collection of disbelief, despair and denial accompanied Eudora as they walked off the field for the final time as a team.
"The boys have nothing to hang their heads about," Kinney said. "They exceeded every expectation in the state."