Cards’ season decked with multiple honors
It fell agonizingly short this year as a season long quest disintegrated within the span of a single inning in Salina.
The 16-3 defeat to the Bishop Ward Cyclones certainly put a damper on the 2006 campaign for the Eudora baseball team, but one game's failure couldn't overshadow a season's worth of accomplishments.
Eudora hoisted the state runner-up trophy last week to put the final touches on what will go down as one of the best seasons the Cardinal baseball program has ever seen.
Seven seniors and a host of role players led the squad to a 24-2 season, which included a Frontier League title and a regional championship.
"The boys and I are very thankful for everyone's support," Eudora coach Dirk Kinney said. "We are especially thankful for the Diamond Club, the booster club and the support of the parents and fans. They helped in so many different ways and we are thankful."
Coming into this year's breakthrough season there was uncertainty surrounding the fortunes of the team that finished 19-3 the previous year.
One of the main questions posed to this year's edition, was the pitching. The Cardinals opened the year having lost nearly 90 percent of their innings from the starting rotation and had some holes to fill.
One of the answers came from the junior varsity ranks, as sophomore Kelson Boyer rose through to claim the top spot in the rotation and earn the right to start the Cardinals' first-ever state playoff appearance against Wellington.
At season's end, Boyer accumulated a 9-0 record for the Cardinals and positioned himself to be a fixture in the rotation for the next two years.
"Kelson did an excellent job for his first year as a varsity player," Kinney said. "His future is bright as long as he continues to work."
Boyer was joined in the rotation by senior Kyle Brouhard and junior Kent Swanson. Brouhard matched the win total of his sophomore teammate, and added a sparkling 1.88 earned run average in his final season in Cardinal red.
The Cardinal pitchers benefited from the senior experience of Rodney Spillman behind the plate. Spillman delivered his fair share of hits, but the baseball know-how was of paramount importance to the head coach.
"Rodney knew the game as good as anyone in the state," Kinney said. "He did an excellent job handling our pitchers."
With the questions seemingly answered in the starting rotation, the Cardinals had no problems in the department of offense over the course of the 2006 season.
The Cardinal bats punished several opponents during the season, including a stretch of five straight games in which they scored double-digit runs (highlighted by a 36-run output in a doubleheader against Wellsville).
In the thick of the offensive push for the Cardinals were the likes of Brouhard and seniors Miles Cleveland, Mark Abel and Chad Griffin.
Cleveland backed up his claim as the Cardinals' table setter by batting .427 for the year and collecting 17 stolen bases.
"Miles started everything for us," Kinney said. "When he got on base, we knew he was going to score."
The constant presence of Cleveland on base made things easy for other Cardinal hitters as the numbers for many of them could attest.
The trio combined for 102 RBI's, nine triples and eight home runs, all of which combined to give the Cardinals numerous early leads throughout the year.
Those numbers were important to the Cardinals success, but perhaps more important was the impact the players had on the program and the head coach."
"Mark (Abel) was one of the finest players on and off the field that I have ever coached," Kinney said. "And Chad proved to be an outstanding leader for us on the field. They all should be proud of what they've done here."