Burnett pitches well-timed gem
The De Soto baseball team was in perfect position to earn its first doubleheader sweep, since taking a pair of games from Central Heights April 5, when it faced Anderson County Thursday.
But a defense that had been so spectacular at times through the first 13 innings forgot to show up in the top of the seventh inning of the second game.
With the game tied 1-1, after six innings, Anderson County secured a split by scoring five runs in the inning for a 6-2 triumph. The Wildcats won the opening game by a 3-0 count thanks to another pitching gem from Taylor Burnett.
Although De Soto would like to have won both games, the team can take some consolation in winning the first game.
With the three-run win, De Soto moved back into a two-way tie with Spring Hill atop the Frontier League standings. Both teams sit at 6-1 in the conference and 8-4 overall. Paola is within a whisker with a 5-1 conference mark and holds onto a 7-3 slate overall.
As long as Burnett continues to pitch the way he has this season -- he is responsible for a 2-1 record and a sterling 1.94 earned run average -- the Wildcats won't have to produce a whole lot of offense in games he pitches.
"He just gets stronger and stronger as the game goes on," De Soto baseball coach Steve Deghand said. "He could get off to a better start, but when he reaches the third or fourth inning, he gets so much stronger."
The Wildcats hit just .280 in the opening game and scored three earned runs. They tallied two runs in the fourth inning and added another in the sixth for good measure.
But it was Burnett and a solid defense that made the difference. Burnett threw strikes. The junior threw 62 strikes in 86 pitches and struck out nine enemy batters without a walk. He did hit a batter.
Defensively, Colby Childers led the way with a great catch after great catch in the outfield.
The Wildcats made four sliding and diving catches in the outfield while also turning a double play in the fifth inning of the first game when Burnett caught a popped-up bunt and then threw out the runner at first who had left the bag.
De Soto's defense, however, made two mistakes in the decisive seventh inning of the nightcap game. The first one occurred on the second pitch of the inning when a Bulldog hitter drilled a triple into deep center field. Deghand, however, said at worst it should have been a double.
The second one came at the hands of Hunter Noe, who came in to relieve starter Jerod Bader. Noe misplayed a grounder back to the mound.
In an attempt to make the play anyway, the senior's throw to first base was off the mark. With two runners in scoring position because of the miscue, Anderson County took a 4-1 advantage when the next batter struck for a single.
Had the error not occurred, the Wildcats could have gotten out of the inning with at worst a two-run deficit. Instead they faced a 6-1 hole and only three outs remaining.
"Hunter tried to make an athletic play," Deghand said. "Those things happen. You can't blame him for trying."
Deghand talked to his team before they stepped to the plate in the bottom half of the inning.
"I told them I wanted them to compete," he said. "I told them not to give anything away. Not to give one at bat away. I think had we played that way every inning of the game -- at every at bat -- throughout the game we wouldn't have been in that situation."
The Wildcats loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom half of the inning but scored just one run in the inning.
De Soto scored in the bottom of the fourth inning in the opener when Burnett singled to lead off the inning. Leif Goleman's triple to right center field scored Burnett, and Austin DeGraeve's single brought home Goleman.
The final run was scored in the first game when Goleman lined a double to deep center field and scored on a fielder's choice from the bat of Riley Pierce.
De Soto swept Prairie View Tuesday 20-0 and 12-0.
De Soto, 8-4, faces a must win situation at 4:30 p.m. Thursday when it travels to Spring Hill for the battle of the top two teams in the league.