Boys of summer taking on ‘big leagues’
Baseball seasons can be long and grueling. Just ask some of the players on De Soto's senior league team that plays at the Johnson County 3 and 2 baseball complex.
The Wildcats started the season with an 11-4 win over the Junior Mustangs, but have since lost six games in a row, including a pair of losses to the Blue Valley Northwest Huskies last Wednesday, and a single game loss to the Olathe East Junior Hawks on Thursday.
Although it's sometimes hard to put a finger on what ails a team in a slump, pitcher Taylor Burnett tried to shed some light on the early season woes.
"We're more of a streaky team," the he said. "At certain times we have players that will go on streaks, and now we're going through one of those periods. Some of our players are going through a streak where they're slumping.
"We're working on some things that should help us get back to where we should be."
Burnett said part of the problem was a two-week period in which the Wildcats were unable to play or practices.
It also doesn't help that the Wildcats are playing bigger schools accustomed to the level of competition played in the American Division of the Senior league. These teams have players that for the most part concentrate on one sport.
In the three losses last week, De Soto was out-scored 37-13 and has been out scored 79-35 so far this season.
The Wildcats jumped out to a 1-0 advantage in the opener with the Huskies when Tyler Farmer led the second inning with a single up the middle and then scored when Dustin Grimes reached base safely on an error by the Huskies leftfielder.
But Blue Valley Northwest tested the Wildcat grit for the first time during the week's competition when the Huskies took a 4-1 advantage in the top of the third inning.
The Huskies batters bruised Wildcat starting pitcher Farmer for a double and four singles during the eight-batter inning, which included three straight singles.
De Soto sent a message to the Huskies that it wasn't about to go away by rallying for four runs of its own in the bottom of the third frame.
Austin DeGraeve started the rally when he slammed a two-out single up the middle. A double to the fence in right field by Kenny Price put runners at the corners and a single by Farmer scored DeGraeve, cutting the deficit to two.
Burnett scored Price with his infield single and Jake Bosnak knocked in a single that scored Farmer and Burnett, giving the Wildcats the lead at 5-4.
"Part of being a young team is learning that even when you get down you can still come back," Burnett said of the Wildcat rally. "We are still learning how to do that, but we did a good job of rallying in that game."
Blue Valley Northwest's experience won over, however, as the Huskies scored three runs in the top of the fourth inning, taking the lead for good at 7-5. They added two more runs in the fifth and six in the seventh as they pulled away.
The Wildcats tried to rally in their half of the final inning by scoring three runs. But Dan Hoschouer and Aaron Hanson flew out and struck out, respectively, on back-to-back at bats, ending the threat.
In the second game, Burnett opened the scoring in the top of the second inning when he came in to run for Grimes, who walked on six pitches with an out in the inning.
Burnett stole second and took third on an error before he came home on a passed ball.
Price and Farmer made the score 3-0 after four-and-a-half innings when Grimes and Hoschouer brought them home on an infield single and a walk, respectively.
The Huskies finally got on the board in the bottom half of the fifth inning before the Wildcats scored two more runs in the sixth frame.
That's when the Huskies added five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, rallying for the win.
"It was one of those games," Burnett said. "We played well and got wrapped up in thinking that the game was ours. We thought we already had the game won, and then we let up. The Huskies are one of those teams that realize they can rally."
The frustrating loss may have put the Wildcats in a bad frame of mind going into their single game with the Hawks.
Olathe East took a 7-0 advantage after three innings and then rubbed a little salt in the Wildcat wounds when the team added nine more scores in the fourth inning, ending the game early.
The Hawks pounded out 14 hits and put six runners on the base pads from bases on balls. Every player that played for Olathe East scored at least one run.
De Soto got seven balls to drop for base hits. But the Wildcats couldn't get the timely hits they needed to score runs.
Farmer's bat was as dangerous as ever in the three games last week. Despite going 0-for-2 against the Hawks he still hit .667 for the week with an on-base percentage of .700.
Farmer had six hits in nine at bats and scored four runs. He also added a couple of RBIs to the cause.
DeGraeve and Price were also hot for the Wildcats as both hit a hot .444 for the week with four hits apiece. Price scored four times, while DeGraeve came home twice.
Grimes went 3-for-7 with a run scored, and knocked in three runs. James Ingalls went 1-for-2, while Burnett hit .333 and scored twice. He also knocked in a run.
As a team the Wildcats hit .307 for the week and had a team on base-percentage of .416 while scoring 13 runs in the three games.
The Huskies and Junior Hawks were even more offensive than De Soto. The teams combined to score 37 runs in just three games. They also pounded out 37 hits in 88 at bats (.420), with an on-base percentage of .505 and a slugging percentage of .557.
The two 6A teams ripped Wildcat pitching for 11 extra base hits, including 10 doubles, while striking out just nine times.
The Wildcats (1-6) return to action next Wednesday when they are the host of the Ravens at Olathe Northwest's N field at 6:30 p.m. The second game of the double header is expected to start at 9 p.m.