Archive for Thursday, June 2, 2005

Still little joy among Cardinals

League title, 19 wins not enough

June 2, 2005

It was a disappointing year for the Eudora Cardinals.

Although disappointment is often associated with losing, the 2005 version of the Cardinals was a disappointment because they won.

It was a team chalked full of senior leadership and underclass talent, and during the regular season it showed.

Eudora finished the year with 19 wins, 18 of which came during the regular season. And the expectations of what was possible grew with each win.

At season's end, the Cardinals captured the No. 1 seed in the 4A state regionals and a berth at state seemed very attainable.

However, one day in May at CommunityAmerica Ballpark in Kansas City, Kan., a group of Pirates sank those hopes.

Despite the disappointment of not meeting the growing expectations, the 2005 Cardinals had its proud moments.

"Those guys have nothing to hang there heads about," Eudora coach Dirk Kinney said. "Yeah the season was disappointing, but they won a lot of games and a share of the league title."

For Eudora, the season began as expected, a 9-1 dismantling of Paola. Senior pitcher Joe Kaup, who finished the year with a 4.75 ERA and four of the Cardinals victories, got the team off to a great start.

"Joe pitched great for us all year," Kinney said. "He and a lot of the other guys kept us in a lot of games."

Kaup was part of a rotation that included fellow seniors Rod Evinger (5-1) and Paul Smith (5-1). The staff compiled an ERA of 3.45. All three hurlers were named the team's pitchers of the year.

The Cardinals built on that start with a pair of doubleheader sweeps, one over Anderson County and the other at the expense of Prairie View.

The 5-0 record was one of the best starts by a Cardinals team.

But then came Spring Hill.

The Broncos blew into town and delivered the Cards their first loss of the season 9-4.

After the initial defeat and one more at the hands of Gardner, Eudora proceeded to unleash an offensive deluge on its opposition.

Wellsville, Ottawa and Central Heights took the brunt of an offense that outscored its opponents 95-11 on its way to 246 total runs.

A large part of the output came from the bat of junior second baseman Miles Cleveland, who provided the spark for the offensive flood. Cleveland, named to the Frontier League's first team, led the team with a .647 on-base percentage that came in large part to the team leading 23 walks he earned.

But perhaps the most dramatic moment came when the Cardinals seemed ready to fall to defeat for the third time in the regular season.

A trip to Osawatomie gave the Cardinals an easy game one win but a much tougher time in the second game.

It ended up being the long ball that saved the day against the Trojans.

Junior Chad Griffin, who finished with 29 hits and a .397 average, launched the year's only grand slam, securing a come-from-behind 13-9 win.

After the offensive spell seemed to wane, the highlight of the year came at De Soto when the Cardinals captured a share of the league title with a pair of victories over the Wildcats.

"That was a great feeling for them," Kinney said. "It was the first title for quite some time, and they earned it."

The Cardinals headed into the 4A regionals with a full head of steam, and Tonganoxie was in the way. The Chieftains didn't seem to care much for Eudora's record and hung around long enough to put a scare into the No. 1 seed.

Eudora was able to hold on for a 4-3 victory in large part to the team's rookie of the year Kent Swanson and third team All-Frontier-League player Mark Abel.

Swanson logged eight and two-thirds innings of varsity ball but none was more important than the two he threw in Kansas City.

The sophomore wiggled out of a no out, bases loaded jam that would have perhaps doomed the Cardinals' year.

"Kent pitched his tail off in that game," Kinney said. "I'm real excited about having him on the squad for next year."

Abel's triple early in the contest gave the Cards their eventual margin of victory.

Then came the Piper Pirates and out went the state title hopes.

The Pirates handed the Cardinals a 10-4 defeat and an abrupt end to the season.

"It's a shame that the entire season came down to one game," Kinney said. "But we didn't play our best ball at that time, and we got beat."

Although the Cardinals fell short of their ultimate goal, the head coach can't wait to get started next year.

"I'm really excited about what we've got next year," he said. "We'll have a great pitching core and some good offense."

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