Eudora to return promising talent
A season that was in the making since 2003 came to an end May 27 as the Eudora Cardinals fell to the Bishop Ward Cyclones in the state championship game.
Seven players from the Frontier League and sub-state regional champs walked off the field for the last time in Cardinal red.
The Cardinal seniors were the cornerstone of this year's 24-2 runner-up team, but as any team at the end of a season knows, changes will be coming.
When March comes around and the sting of defeat is long since forgotten, the Cardinals will be returning only three starters from this year's team and the amount of playing time from this year's role players will be drastically increased.
Different, though, from many teams who will lose players this year will be what next year's Cardinals took from the journey to state.
"We all learned so much from those seniors," junior catcher Mike Ortega said. "After playing with them we all know that we want to be like them and get back to state because it was such an amazing experience."
That attitude will travel with the players coming back as they regroup for summer ball and the work ahead.
Despite the experience, questions will fall upon next year's team. But those questions are of the same variety asked of this year's squad and any team when graduation opens up some holes.
"We'll just reload," Eudora coach Dirk Kinney said. "I'm not a rebuilding type of guy, so I'm not too worried. Last year we lost 103 of 122 innings from our starting pitchers and we ended up being all right."
The Cardinals will return two-thirds of its starting pitchers in Kent Swanson and Kelson Boyer and will be able to insert key role players Ortega and Matthew Abel into more prominent roles.
In addition to the varsity experience coming back, the Cardinals have the luxury of mining Eudora's junior varsity team, which had an impressive season of its own with a 14-2 record.
"We have a very talented group of guys on the junior varsity team," Ortega said. "But they have to know that they will need to step up and be ready to get in there like we did for this year's team. We want to get back to state and everybody's going to have be a part of it."
The Cardinals who will be stepping up for next year's team will always be able to look back on the 2006 team for inspiration and a little advice from the players who made their final appearances in Salina.
"They have to work hard in the offseason," departing senior Rodney Spillman said. "They also have to know what they can and can't do, and be ready to work and be ready to make plays."