Post No. 14 bows out tied for fifth
Small victories can be important to building for the future, especially in the realm of sports.
The Eudora Post No. 14 Cardinals may not have finished the year playing at their best - to use the team's motto, they didn't end up being the 'Only one' team smiling at the end of the year - but the emergence of several kids lays a solid foundation for the future of Cardinal baseball.
Eudora struggled in game one of the AA American Legion State Tournament against Osawatomie, before rebounding to beat Beloit in the first round of the consolation bracket. The Cardinals' season then came to an end with a 12-1 loss to Larned.
"Part of it was maybe nerves. None of them had ever been to a state tournament before, so they were just kind of feeling it out," Post No. 14 head coach Paul Houle said. "When you get to that level, teams are good enough to where you don't have an opportunity to feel it out for a couple of innings."
Playing against a team the Cardinals had beaten earlier in the year, those nerves didn't produce an advantage for either team out of the gate, although they may have prevented the Cardinals from exhibiting the same kind of offensive prowess it had in a 16-5 thrashing of Bishop Ward in the championship of the zone tournament one game before.
Neither team managed a run until the sixth, when both struck for four runs. Eudora managed just one baserunner, a hit batsman, through the first four innings.
However the difference was made in the top of the seventh, when Osawatomie kept the offense rolling with another three runs before the Cardinals went down in their half of the seventh to end the game.
"The big thing about the first game is we just came out flat. We didn't come out to win, and hopefully that's a lesson they've learned," Houle said. "Even good teams get beat by subpar teams, not that Osawatomie is subpar, but I believe we should have beat them."
The Cardinals kept their postseason hopes alive in the second game by beating Beloit, 10-3. They were led by a strong pitching performance by Drew Noble and an offensive outburst spurred by Max Campbell.
"It was probably one of the best performances (Noble) had all season. He just had command of all of his pitches," Houle said. "He has a little bit of a slider that was getting guys out. He threw that when he needed to, got guys out.
"And he mixed it up with fastballs and changeups when he needed. He just had complete command when he was up there."
Campbell, having only played the second half of the season because of injuries, jumpstarted the offense in the sixth inning which began with the Cardinals trailing, 3-2. Campbell stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and knocked a double down the right field line that plated two runs.
"That started the carousel," Houle said.
It sure did. The Cardinals scored eight runs in the inning, two by Noble, and sent 12 batters to the plate.
Beloit never responded offensively, and Eudora advanced to the second round of the consolation bracket, where Larned awaited.
However, that's where Eudora's postseason run ended, and Larned wasted no time in jumping out to an early lead.
Larned scored three in the first, five in the second and four in the third to push the Cardinals' backs up against the wall, facing the possibility of a run-rule loss.
In the top of the fourth, Zach Bryant reached on an error, Brian Dudley singled and Tyler Beebe doubled to score Bryant, at least getting Eudora on the board. But Eudora fell, 12-1.
"That's still a lopsided victory, but to score one run, when you pretty much don't have a chance at coming back, that's pretty huge and shows that they didn't give up and didn't quit," Houle said. "I was pretty excited about that."
Of the season on the whole, Houle said he was most excited to see the emergence of leaders on the team, and the team coming together and learning to play as a team - both big parts of building a team, and for that matter, a successful program. Harper and Campbell were both players he singled out as assuming a leadership role, among others.
"A lot of the success as a team, you kind of have to give it to them because, as coaches, we can only do so much, but without team leaders you can only go so far," Houle said. "Those guys really stood out as far as overall leaders.
And they learned a couple different complexities of the game; how to win and you have to learn to trust each other. I think that's what made them come together."