Cards make run at title
Team advances to championship game, falls to Bishop Ward
It wasn't supposed to end like this.
A season which was destined to be like none other in the relatively short history of Eudora Cardinal baseball was unceremoniously buried in a single inning Saturday at Salina's Dean Evans Stadium.
Eudora earned a chance to dethrone defending champ Bishop Ward and capture the program's first title, but the Cyclones had other ideas and defended their crown with a 16-3 victory in the state championship game.
The Cyclones turned a 5-2 lead into a gut-wrenching rout, scoring 10 runs on nine hits in the fourth inning to capture their state-record fourth consecutive championship.
As Ward celebrated, the Cardinals could only lament the nightmarish inning.
"We couldn't make plays," said Rodney Spillman, one of seven Eudora seniors playing in their last game. "We couldn't get ahead in the count and when that happens and you can't make plays, it starts to spread to everyone else and that's what did us in."
Eudora's first championship appearance got off to exactly the right start as starter Kent Swanson dispatched the potent Cyclone lineup in the first inning. The Cardinals' offense responded with a pair of runs in the home half of the inning to take a 2-0 lead.
Miles Cleveland got the Cardinals going by drawing a leadoff walk and was followed by senior Mark Abel reaching on a throwing error.
Luke Abel then came to the plate with two outs and delivered a two-run single to bring the large Eudora contingent to its feet.
The Cyclones, though, had a response of their own, scoring three runs in the second on two hits and the first of four Eudora errors to take a one-run lead.
The Cardinals' title hopes soon began to fade as the Cyclones added two more in the third, chasing Swanson.
The hopes then were put to rest in the fourth, as every Ward ball hit off Eudora reliever Kelson Boyer seemed to find a hole or bounce off the glove of a lurching defender.
Boyer, who had been solid in the Cardinals' first-round win over Wellington, was himself relieved by semifinal winner Kyle Brouhard.
Brouhard, however, didn't fare much better as the Cyclones continued to mash the ball, prolonging the agonizing inning.
The Cardinals didn't do themselves any favors in the inning by committing two more errors, helping the Cyclones pull away.
"This one will be a tough one to swallow," Eudora coach Dirk Kinney said. "All we needed to do was make plays and field the baseball, and we did neither.
"But I'm proud of these guys, and these seniors were great to work with. They put a lot of hard work into this season. They probably saw me more than they saw their parents. So I'm extremely proud of them.
And we're all really grateful about everybody that showed up for us. It meant a lot."
Cleveland, Spillman, Brouhard, Mark Abel, Luke Abel, Austin Calhoon and Chad Griffin all played their final games for the Cardinals, holding the second-place trophy.
Despite the disappointment in the season's end, the Cardinals and their seniors found positives in their 24-2 season.
"Last year, we thought, was a season to remember," Spillman said. "This year will be a season that will never be forgotten. It's been such a blessing to play for Coach Kinney and this team."