Archive for Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Fly Route

May 10, 2007

I'm not sure I believe him. It's not because there was anything in Eudora baseball coach Dirk Kinney's tone or mannerisms that said he was lying -- his calm, cool words and firm but pained look screamed honesty, in fact.

Kinney said the negative thoughts didn't even enter his mind.

It's hard to believe the fans and players watching the Cardinals' Tuesday doubleheader at De Soto called upon a similar reserve of sunshine.

The Cardinals clung to a 5-4 lead late in the first game, but just as everything from the last two weeks had seemed to go against the team, everything in the game started to as well.

One Wildcat got a hit, and another reached on what was credited as one error, but in reality was two, three and maybe even four bobbles of the ball.

De Soto quickly tied the game, and seemed to have all the momentum after doubling up Brian White and Kent Swanson when White popped up a bunt attempt and Swanson couldn't get back to second base in time.

One inning later, again clinging to a one-run lead, the Cardinals again stumbled into trouble. An error let a runner aboard with two outs and a soft line drive moved the tying run to third base.

Consider that last week the Eudora baseball team was swept -- swept! -- by a just-good Central Heights squad. Consider that Kinney missed nearly a week of the season when he had to travel out of state for his grandfather's funeral. Consider that when the team has been able to get games in between thunderstorms, it has done so without unarguably its best player, junior pitcher Kelson Boyer, who was dismissed from the team.

Consider all that -- all the new faces, the changed plans and the disappointment -- and Kinney didn't have a negative thought after he watched error after error push his team toward the edge of the cliff?

He didn't think maybe if that game slips away, the confidence of a suddenly-young team goes with it? That the team's easy second-game win isn't nearly so easy, and maybe the team finds itself on its worst slide in years right at the start of the regional tournament?

I've had 20 negative thoughts and I'm not even trying.

Turns out his faith was well placed, and if this team can get a little more luck -- it got some to close out that first game Tuesday -- it can emerge stronger now at the end of the season than it ever was when it started.

Eudora found a way to take the lead back against De Soto. The Wildcats gave up one hit, but walked two and hit a batter to bring the go-ahead run home.

The Cardinals took life from that momentum and easily won the second game.

Until recently it's been easy to look at the Eudora baseball team and ask why it isn't performing like last year's squad, a team that steamrolled its way to a one-loss regular season and eventually to the state championship game.

That comparison is not only no longer fair -- it's no longer possible.

A new team was born in the ashes of the last two weeks, and Tuesday it was that team that found a way to win two tough ballgames in De Soto.

It's not the team anyone expected to see when Eudora carted off a trophy from last year's state tournament, and it's not the one anyone expected to see when the boys first laced up the cleats in March.

It's not a team capable of dominating or imposing its will, and it may well not be a team that repeats the trip to the state championship.

It is still a team capable of winning, and that alone makes this next week -- the regional tournament -- worth watching.

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