Big inning spells doom for Cardinals
That was all that it took for a season with so much promise to come to an end for the Eudora Cardinal baseball team.
After compiling an 18-2 record and gaining a hard- fought first- round regional victory, the Cardinals bowed out of the post-season on Wednesday to Piper High School.
The culprit, a six- run fourth inning that saw a 3-2 Eudora lead evaporate into a 10-4 Pirate win at CommunityAmerica Ballpark in Kansas City, Kan.
The loss was only the third of the season, but it was the one that counted the most.
The game began in ominous fashion for the Cards as the Pirates jumped on starter Paul Smith for two runs in the top of the first for a quick 2-0 lead.
"I was concerned a little bit about Wednesday's game because we didn't swing the bats very well against Tonganoxie," coach Dirk Kinney said.
The Cardinals threatened in their own half of the inning when the No. 2 hitter, junior Mark Abel, earned a walk off Piper's Cameron Lemanske.
However, Abel was picked off at first after slipping as he faked a move to second base, killing the budding rally.
The Eudora defense managed to hold off the Pirates in the second and third innings, despite the Piper bats hitting the ball hard.
The Cards then regained momentum in the third with a trio of runs, giving them a 3-2 lead.
The inning started with senior center fielder Rod Evinger singling to right. Senior Joe Kaup then reached on an error.
Junior Luke Abel followed with a fielder's choice that scored Evinger for the Cards' first tally of the game.
Second baseman Miles Cleveland was safe on a bunt single, and Mark Abel followed with an RBI ground out that scored Kaup, tying the game.
Cleveland later scored as Paul Smith reached on a fielder's choice.
The lead had the Cardinal dugout up and running.
"We really felt like we had an opportunity to win then," Kinney said. "We got down and were able to come right back."
Then came the fourth inning.
The Pirates began the frame with four consecutive singles. The third and fourth hits scored the tying and go-ahead run.
After Piper's Evan Johnson flied out, Cardinal pitcher Paul Smith hit Chris Randall to keep the Pirate rally alive.
It would be the last batter Smith would face.
"I was pleased with the pitching," Kinney said. "Paul was giving up hits and that was OK. But if you can't field the ball you can't win the game."
Kaup came on in relief, but a passed ball allowed the go-ahead run to score.
Then wheels came off.
The Pirate bats kept hammering the ball and, with the help of a Cardinal error, the underdogs built what proved to be an insurmountable lead, 8-3.
The Cardinals promptly answered in the bottom of the inning as junior shortstop Kyle Brouhard scored on a fielder's choice, but a strikeout and groundout quickly ended the hopes of a comeback. The damage had already been done.
The Pirates would add single runs in the fifth and seventh, handing the top-seeded Cardinals their third and most bitter loss of the season.
"It was tough," Kinney said. "They worked awfully hard for this year, and it just didn't work out."
Despite falling short of the goal of a trip to state, Kinney was proud of the way his team played the entire season.
"They shouldn't hang their heads," Kinney said. "These guys worked hard all season, the community came out to support us, and the seniors are a great bunch of guys. I know they'll go on to be successful."
The Cardinals finished the season with a 19-3 record and a share of the Frontier League title.
The senior class of Paul Smith, Cole Massey, Joe Kaup, Rod Evinger and Derin Stewart finished their Eudora careers with a record of 51-13 over the last three years.