Pitching question mark for opener
Even though Monday was the official start of spring, winter still had a say in things with some nasty weather, which turned the Eudora practice field into something more akin to a tractor pull than a ball field.
With baseball on their minds, the Eudora Cardinals didn't seem to notice.
The Cardinals retreated from the damp conditions for some indoor sessions of batting practice and defensive drills throughout the week in preparation for the season opener, which sits just four days away.
"The weather doesn't bother them," Eudora coach Dirk Kinney said of his players. "They just want to hit, so this kind of thing really doesn't mean much."
That workman-like attitude will be on display as the Cardinals take on Frontier League foe Paola Monday in the season opener at Eudora.
In the opener, the Cardinals will match up with a team they dispatched 9-1 in last year's season opener at Paola. This time around, however, things will be a little different as both teams are coping with departures because of graduation.
The Cardinals lost the bulk of their 2005 pitching staff to graduation, including last year's season opening starter Joe Kaup. However, the head coach is optimistic about this year's rotation, which features some underclass arms, going into Monday's game.
"We'll be young arm-wise. We've got some sophomores that can throw pretty well," Kinney said. "With the mixture of sophomores, juniors and seniors, it may look like we've lost a lot, but at the same time we have a lot of quality arms.
"Do they have the velocity those seniors had? No, but they can throw strikes and that's what we want."
As with any opponent the Cardinals will face during the course of the season, Kinney will be focusing on how his team does in some key areas on Monday.
The Eudora pitching will face a Panther lineup that is without three of its top run producers from last year's 12-8 team.
Matt Richardson, Jake Logan and Jeffrey Theis led Paola in runs batted in, but despite their absence, the head coach knows the Panthers can still score some runs and hopes his pitching staff doesn't offer them any help.
"If they (Paola) want to put it in play, I don't have a problem with that," Kinney said. "Our defense is solid, so let them put it in play. Our guys just need to throw strikes, which means less walks."
As pitching and defense will always be key for the Cardinals if they hope to win, perhaps most interesting to the head coach will be the team's performance in the situational hitting department.
Last year's team had numerous games with double-digit hits, but the execution in situational hitting could be the biggest key.
"We've been doing situational hitting a ton in practice," Kinney said. "I don't expect us to go out and get 22 hits every game, but I do expect us to execute well with situational hitting."
No starting pitchers have been determined for Monday's game, which gets under way at 4:30 p.m. at the baseball field south of Eudora High School.