Cardinals resilient in 2007
Of course there's disappointment, Eudora baseball coach Dirk Kinney said. Disappointment reigns for 63 of Class 4A's 64 teams at the end of every season, and once again having fallen short of being that one happy team, the Cardinals aren't happy.
Kinney said he can take a lot from the end of the season, however. A year after rolling to the state championship game, Kinney said the Cardinals again played their best baseball at the end of the year.
Given the land mines that lined seemingly every step of the journey in 2007, that's quite an accomplishment, he said.
"Obviously there's frustration, but it was also rewarding," Kinney said. "We could have easily folded up and quit playing because of what was going on, but the boys came together and played well."
The team's difficulties perhaps began with the shadow cast last spring when the senior-laden 2006 Cardinals dismantled the Frontier League, lost just one regular season game, and advanced all the way to the state title game.
Filling the holes left by those seniors was no small task -- gone were some of the best pitchers and many of the best hitters, some of the most versatile and several of the fastest.
Though the team started off where it had left off a year before, Eudora lost its second league game in as many years in the fifth game of the season, falling 4-1 at Louisburg. That loss triggered a three-game losing streak.
"We just had to replace so many outstanding seniors from the year before," Kinney said.
Eudora bounced back, winning four consecutive games with a cumulative score of 56-1, but the loss of several more players to suspensions and dismissals again dealt the team a blow. The Cardinals dropped both ends of a doubleheader at Central Heights before bouncing back one final time.
Eudora won its final three games heading into the regional tournament, including a doubleheader sweep at De Soto.
Relying on faces new and old and many kids thrust into positions none had expected when the season began, the Cardinals were once again playing their best ball when it mattered the most.
"We had a junior class that really stepped up," Kinney said. "Then we had Brian White, who was awesome pitching. He wanted the ball every game, as did Chad Krutz.
"In the field it was Craig Harper and Brian Kindle. For them to come in as junior varsity players, then all of the sudden they're starting for varsity, that was awesome."
Eudora beat Spring Hill 7-5 in the opening game of the tournament, but fell to Bishop Ward in the semi-finals, the same team that beat the Cardinals for the state title last season. Ward went on to win it all, again.
It was disappointing, Kinney said, pairing the excitement of 2006 with the letdown of 2007, but he said the squad left him plenty to be excited about.
"They've started out really well this summer," he said of the team's summer baseball league. "They'll play a lot of baseball this summer, and they're going to get better."