Last year a distant memory for baseball team
It all ended so quickly for the Cardinal baseball team last year, and when it did, a long layoff was the only reward for a tremendous regular season.
Eudora saw a 19-3 season end somewhat prematurely in the second round of the 4A sub-state tournament with a 10-4 loss to the Piper Pirates.
Last year, however, is just that, as the 2006 version of the Eudora Cardinals are gathering for another run at a Frontier League crown and maybe a trip to state.
The Cardinals are planning to get past last season's letdown by completely ignoring it.
"I don't think it's been brought up once," Eudora coach Dirk Kinney said. "We obviously had a tough game. Their pitcher was throwing well and we were seeing everybody's best. That's what you always get in tournaments like that."
Seeing everybody's best will be the mission once again as the baseball season heads toward its first pitch later this month.
An offensive juggernaut a year ago, the Cardinals will look to pound the ball and put pressure on the opposition as they return five bats from a lineup which produced 246 runs in 2005.
At the top spot is second baseman Miles Cleveland. A year ago, Cleveland was a major factor in jump starting many big innings, the fuel for many of Eudora's lopsided wins. The senior accounted for 46 runs and logged an on-base percentage of .647. He was also a sparkling 21-for-21 on stolen base attempts.
Supplying some of the power and run production will be senior first baseman Chad Griffin and senior shortstop Kyle Brouhard. Griffin, who missed some early season games last season with a sore hamstring, led the team in slugging percentage and accounted for 33 of the team's 202 total RBIs, while Brouhard led the team in extra-base hits with 14, including a team best three home runs.
"We could score a lot of runs," Kinney said. "Were going to have a mix of seniors and some of the younger kids in there so we could have an opportunity to score some runs."
While the return of a formidable offense seems to be a real possibility, the senior exodus has left some questions in other areas.
One of the biggest question marks for the 2006 Cardinals will be on the mound.
Eudora replaces three senior starting pitchers who combined to pitch 112 of the Cardinals 136 innings pitched
This season, Eudora will turn to the underclass ranks and some of the returning seniors to fill the holes made by those departing in 2005.
Junior Kent Swanson and sophomore Kelson Boyer are a pair of right-handers from the junior varsity ranks who look to log some varsity innings in 2006.
Swanson did manage to pitch 8 and 1/3 varsity innings in 2005, including a clutch high-pressure inning late in the first round of the sub-state tournament against Tonganoxie. Swanson came in and bailed the Cardinals out of a bases-loaded jam to secure Eudora's final win.
Both of the Cardinals' young arms should help out a rotation that may need all the help it can get.
"Last year we were more of a power pitching team," Kinney said. "We had a lot of strikeouts, but we also walked way too many people. These guys throw more strikes so were going to have to play good defense, because teams are going to put the ball in play."
Returning seniors will be given the opportunity to build on their number of innings pitched from a year ago.
Senior Mark Abel logged only six innings on the mound, but had five strikeouts and no walks. Brouhard will also get back into the rotation after going 12 2/3 innings with an ERA of 3.32.
Defensively the Cardinals will return a solid infield, which includes Cleveland at second and Griffin at first, who led the team with a .980 fielding percentage.
Senior Rodney Spillman looks to take over catcher for the departing Cole Massey, with junior Mike Ortega filling the back-up role.
Senior Luke Abel will be part of an outfield along with Mark Abel, while the third spot may still be up for grabs for a number of newcomer candidates, including Kent Abel and sophomore Matthew Abel.
"It gets easier every year," Kinney said. "This bunch of seniors has been with me since I took the job and everyone is out here busting their butts. I've heard no complaints and I've been really pleased with that."