Archive for Thursday, May 8, 2008

The eephus pitch

May 8, 2008

Tuesday was the first time I've gotten to see the Eudora baseball team play all year, and although the Cardinals sport a 9-9 record, this team could surprise some people down the road in the regional tournament.

You never look good getting swept, but there are signs of potential that indicate if the bats come around, this team is hard for any team to deal with.

First of all, Matthew Abel, on any given night, is about as hard to deal with as any player on the field for both teams.

He knows how to get on base. Tuesday night in the second game he got down in a count, 1-2. But he battled, fouling off pitches - he fouled off five in the at bat - before running the count full and finally driving a liner to right field for a base hit. It was just a solid at bat, and not every high school ballplayer is heady enough to know how to foul off pitches.

There were pitches in the at bat that you could tell he didn't want to hit, but he kept fouling off pitches until he got something he could drive.

Once on base, he proceeded to steal second, then third. So you go from being down 1-2 with two outs to a runner on third with the cleanup hitter at the plate. That's a big turn of events. Once Abel gets on first, he's always one hit, maybe less, from scoring because he can steal second easily unless the opponent has a big-time catcher. Big-time catchers in Kansas high school baseball are few and far between.

So he's the spark plug that can ignite the team at any time.

And Abel is not the only good stick in the lineup. Chad Krutz, Morgan Abel, Kyle Swanson, Brian White and Brian Dudley all had at bats where they looked good at the plate, quality at bats.

In the third inning of the first game, Abel led of by getting hit by a pitch and Krutz followed with a walk, giving Eudora runners at first and second with no one out. Next up, White mashed a seed - probably the hardest hit ball all night except for a De Soto home run - right up the middle.

But the baseball gods would have none of it, and it found its way to the De Soto shortstop who touched second and threw to first before either Eudora runner could retreat safely.

Eudora's runners didn't freeze immediately, but even with a lead and bouncing off on the pitch there was no way to get back in time. White hit the ball that hard. That's just the way it goes sometimes.

As coach Shaun Edmondson said, baseball is the only game where you can do everything right and the outcome can be the worst possible scenario. Quarterbacks can make the perfect throw to the corner of the endzone. Basketball players can shoot the ball perfectly and nothing can stop the ball from going in.

Baseball is different, and sometimes you can hit the ball on the screws and it still finds the defense's glove. There's nothing you can do.

The pitching is there for Eudora, too. Craig Harper, Dylan Rust and Drew Noble all have the velocity to pitch at the varsity level. Michael Bricker might not throw as hard as the other three, but he tactfully worked a perfect seventh inning in the second game. For the most part Tuesday, it was a lot of walks, bunt singles, hit batsmen and, of course, the three-run jack, that hurt Eudora pitching the most. They were never knocked around. Walks and those other things just led to one hit that cost two or three runs at a time.

And that's without having seen White and Krutz on the mound, Eudora's top returning pitchers from a year ago.

So Eudora may end up being a sixth seed and having to face Bishop Ward in the first round of the regional tournament. But so what? This team is as capable as any of catching Ward thinking they are going to roll over a sixth seed and pulling the upset.

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