State goal of baseball team
The 2005 baseball season begins Monday for the Eudora Cardinals and this year they look to go one step further.
Last year's team finished 18-5 and came within one game of qualifying for state. The Cardinals lost a heartbreaker to Bishop Ward in last year's regional final. This year the team, which has shown progression in the first two years of coach Dirk Kinney's tenure, wants to erase the pain of that season-ending loss.
"That loss was disappointing," Kinney said. "This team has a lot of confidence, and hopefully it will translate."
The 2005 version of the Cardinals will have some of the major components from last year's regional final team missing.
Gone from the squad is a trio of seniors who helped the Cardinals develop the momentum and mindset that got them deep into post-season play.
Starting pitcher Chris Gabriel takes with him a 5-2 record and an ERA of 2.30.
On the offensive side, senior third baseman Aaron Westerhouse and catcher Troy Van Horn had a combined .423 batting average and 47 RBIs. Van Horn led the squad with 26 of those runs driven in.
This year the rotation will see the return of seniors Rod Evinger and Joe Kaup, both strong contributors in last year's run. Unfortunately Evinger will miss some time in the early going with a fractured bone in his back. He will likely play outfield when he returns before any outings on the mound.
Evinger compiled a 5-1 record with a 2.72 ERA, while Kaup looks to improve on his 3-2 record and 3.29 ERA. Evinger also contributed on the offensive side of the diamond with a solid .347 batting average and 21 RBIs.
The pitching unit will also see contributions from senior Paul Smith (3-0 in 2004) and junior Kyle Brouhard, as well as juniors Mark Abel and Chad Griffin and sophomore Kent Swanson. Senior Derin Stewart will also be a candidate for some varsity innings.
The defense looks to remain solid as Kinney fills some holes left by departing seniors. However he feels things will be fine.
"I think that we should be well rounded defensively," he said.
Mark Abel will look to split time at shortstop and in the outfield, depending on who is pitching.
Senior Cole Massey takes over catching duties for the departed Van Horn. Massey batted .258 last year and chipped in with three home runs and 19 RBIs. Junior Rodney Spillman and sophomore Michael Ortega will split time behind the plate when Massey has time off.
Griffin, who comes off a monster sophomore season, will helm first base, while junior Miles Cleveland mans second.
First-team all-leaguer Smith will roam the outfield when he's not on the mound.
Offensively, the Cardinals look to remain as potent as last year's squad that produced 195 runs.
Griffin brings back his .478 average from last year and will fill the three hole.
Kinney can't help but like the power Griffin brings.
"He can swing with the best of them," Kinney said.
The top of the line-up will have a bit of a different look this year as Smith moves down in favor of Luke Abel in the number two spot.
Luke Abel batted .294 last year before getting hurt.
Kinney eagerly anticipated what a healthy Luke Abel could add to the offense.
"He could steal a ton of bases if he's healthy," Kinney said.
Cleveland returns at the lead-off position. Cleveland compiled a .506 on-base percentage and swiped 16 bases.
The additional speed on the bases fits right in to the coach's strategy.
"We have good team speed," Kinney said. "And we love to hit and run. So it will help with those two at the top."
An improving Brouhard will also figure into the lineup.
The Cardinals begin play at 4:30 p.m. Monday at Paola.