Cardinals split with Bulldogs in rivalry match
The Eudora Cardinals baseball team opening league play with a familiar foe Tuesday in Baldwin.
The Bulldogs plated three runs in the bottom of the seventh, taking game one 8-7.
Baldwin nearly repeated the feat in game two, stranding the tying run at third. Eudora held on for its own 8-7 victory and a series split.
"Splitting is like kissing your sister," head coach Dirk Kinney said. "But overall I'm proud. They came back and won that second game, which is absolutely huge. Practice would have been a struggle tomorrow had we lost."
Eudora (3-1) and Baldwin (1-3) combined for 30 runs on the night -- 16 runs through the first five innings and 14 in the final two. The classic match-up of rivals yielded seven lead changes in just 14 innings of play.
"(Baldwin) could be 0-10 and we could be 10-0, and it's going to be a battle," Kinney said. "It's just intense.
"I think (Baldwin head coach Brian Ash) and I probably spark a little bit because we're buddies and neither one of us wants to lose to each other."
Eudora trailed 5-4 heading into the top half of the seventh in game one.
Sophomore Chad Griffin set the stage with a leadoff walk. Junior Cole Massey chased pinch runner Mark Abel to third with a double to right. Junior Rod Evinger followed with an RBI single, tying the game at five.
Senior Monte Steffey put Eudora back on top with a sacrifice fly to right. And senior Aaron Westerhouse walked in the Cards' third and final run of the inning.
Eudora led 7-5 heading into the Bulldog half of the seventh.
Senior starter Chris Gabriel worked himself into a jam, loading the bases with two outs.
The Bulldogs delivered a devastating ground-rule double to center, scoring the tying runs, so Kinney made the move to junior closer Joe Kaup.
The Cardinal right-hander hit the first batter he faced and walked the second -- the free pass bringing home the winning run for Baldwin.
Kinney explained his decision to leave Gabriel in as long as he did.
"I thought Chris worked hard enough that he deserved to see what he could do," Kinney said. "I didn't see any reason to take the ball out of his hand.
"He's a good kid that just had a bad night tonight. But he throws his tail off, and that's what I ask."
All eight runs were charged to Gabriel in the loss. Evinger toed the mound for the Cards in the nightcap.
The crafty lefty battled through a tough lineup, surrendering seven runs in six and a third innings.
"I'm very impressed with Rod (Evinger)," Kinney said. "I've never thrown a kid that many pitches, but you go with your instincts."
Evinger left with one out, one in, and runners at first and second in the seventh.
It was Kaup again getting the call -- this time clinging to a two-run lead.
A passed ball and a dropped third strike allowed Baldwin to plate a run in exchange for an out.
Baldwin trailed by one at 8-7 with two down and the tying run sitting at third.
The next Bulldog batter drilled a ball to deep right, raising Bulldog hopes and Cardinal anxieties. But Troy Van Horn chased down the line drive, preserving the 8-7 win.
Evinger got the win despite the lofty ERA, and Kaup collected the save.
"I was going nuts," Kinney said. "That was Joe's first varsity experience where I didn't put him in with a big lead, and he came in and got the job done. And boy was he throwing hard."
It was a critical win for the Cardinals' psyche. A second come-from-behind loss could have been devastating to the team's confidence and momentum -- especially because of lack of fundamental offensive execution allowed the games to be close in the first place.
"We just didn't play good small ball and we are a small ball team," Kinney said. "We were awful bunting the ball. In three years as a head coach and three as an assistant, I have never seen us bunt that bad.
"And we work on it every day. Tomorrow we're going to bunt 36 times and hit four."
Eudora takes its small ball team to the small town Saturday. The Cardinals are slated to play a double-dip at Anderson County. First pitch is scheduled for noon.