Wildcats swing into Frontier League lead
Win Thursday gives De Soto share of title
Leif Goleman pitched De Soto into first place in the Frontier League Thursday on a day when he had less than his best stuff.
The senior struggled but found enough to help the Wildcats to a 7-3 win in the Wildcats crucial showdown with Spring Hill. The win in the first game of the doubleheader boosted the Wildcats ahead of the Broncos in the league standings by a game. The 4-3 win in the second game doesn't count in the standings but is big for post-season seeding.
Although Goleman struggled with his control at times, he always seemed to recover in time to avoid allowing the Broncos to score a run.
Goleman threw 131 pitches during the seven inning complete-game performance, but only 59 percent of the pitches were strikes.
"He threw too many balls," Wildcat baseball coach Steve Deghand said. "He battled. He was a competitor. All I do is ask them to compete. Leif battled, and he fought, and the offense gave him just enough to win. If he can just continue to do that, then we should be fine."
Goleman allowed just two earned runs despite giving up nine hits and three walks. He also hit two batters and struck out four.
It helped the pitcher's cause that his defense was ready to play. Nine Broncos were stranded on the base pads, including five who were in scoring position.
In the first and third innings, De Soto left two base runners on the pads when they got out of the inning.
Wildcat catcher Troy Gower was one of the defensive standouts. The senior twice took down Spring Hill base runners.
In the third inning, Gower gunned down Jason Murphy trying to steal second. Then in the fourth, Gower took a throw from center fielder Colby Childers and tagged out Kyle Pope trying to get home from first following Jason Rose's double.
In the seventh inning, Childers made a crucial catch in center field. After Murphy tore into the ball, it appeared Rose would score. But a sprinting Childers caught up to the ball and made the catch.
The Wildcats scored three runs in the top of the first, one in the fourth and three more in the seventh. Spring Hill scored one each in the first and second inning, and added another in the bottom of the fourth.
In the second game, the Wildcats rallied from a 3-2 deficit to get a 4-3 win and the sweep. Spring Hill took its only lead of the series in the bottom of the third inning when Pope and Rose belted back-to-back one-out doubles.
De Soto, however, battled back to take the lead for good in the top of the fifth inning.
Austin DeGraeve started the come- back when he lined a single to center field. Then, after Childers laid down a sacrifice bunt, Farmer sent a double to left center field, scoring DeGraeve. Farmer scored on Bader's single to left.
The Broncos threatened to foil the Spring Hill win in the bottom of the seventh inning, but risky play calling prevailed for the Wildcats.
With a Bronco on second base and two outs in the inning, Wildcat starter Taylor Burnett was scheduled to face the red-hot Rose, who was already 6-for-7 with four doubles. Instead of pitching to Rose, Deghand opted to pit Burnett against Jason Murphy. In just one pitch, Murphy popped out to third in foul territory.
Deghand never questioned his decision, especially after watching Rose nearly tie the game up in the fifth inning when he lined out hard to third base for the third out with a man in scoring position.
"I told the guys after the fifth inning that if the same scenario came up in the seventh inning that we were going to walk him (Rose)," Deghand said. "We took the bat out of his hands and made somebody else beat us. He didn't do it.
"It puts a lot of pressure on that other guy when he's probably thinking his teammate who has been getting the job done for them all year is no longer the guy who is being called on to make the play. He's the one that has to do it."
Both teams opened the game with a pair of first-inning runs.
Offensively, Burnett led the Wildcats with four hits in seven at bats for the doubleheader. Bader and Hunter Noe added three hits each. Farmer, Bader and Burnett scored two runs each. Burnett and Riley Pierce knocked in three runs apiece.
De Soto now stands alone at the top of the league standings, but Deghand warned there was still work to be done. And he's right. After last week's action, seven teams were still within two games of the lead.
The Wildcats are atop the league at 8-1. But Paola, who handed De Soto its only league loss, is close behind at 7-1. Spring Hill has posted a 7-2 league mark. Eudora stands at 8-2 after a win Tuesday over Osawatomie. Gardner Edgerton, Louisburg and Osawatomie remain alive.
Eudora is currently ranked eighth in the Kansas Association of Baseball Coaches' 4A weekly rankings. Osawatomie is 10th in the poll, while Paola finds itself at ninth in the 5A poll.
Gardner Edgerton, De Soto and Spring Hill all dropped out following last week's action.
The Wildcats improved their league mark to 9-1 Monday when they knocked off Louisburg 7-3. Now with just a win over either Gardner Edgerton or Eudora -- the Wildcats will secure at least a share of the crown.
De Soto, 13-4, begins the stretch run with a 4:30 p.m. single game Thursday at Gardner Edgerton.