Deghand looking for more
De Soto High School baseball coach Steve Deghand wasn't ready to hang up the uniforms and take a summer break when his team lost to Piper last week in the 4A regionals. He wanted to keep playing.
Who could blame him? His team notched its first winning season with Deghand at the helm and vied for the Frontier League title until the last game of the regular season. It was ranked in the Kansas Association of Baseball Coaches' poll for much of the season.
The Wildcats accomplished that while starting four sophomores and two juniors.
"We just asked them to go out and compete," Deghand said of the young team. "That's what we always do. They answered the call. They competed on every pitch and every at bat during every game."
The Wildcats used a good mix of solid hitting and dominating pitching to scrounge out a 13-4 start to their season. The hot stretch landed them all alone on top of the league standings and made them a regular in the weekly coaches' poll.
Of the seven weekly polls released by the coaches association, the Wildcats were ranked in four of them. The team reached a high ranking of eighth in the 4A poll early in the year.
But an 0-4 finish to their season dropped the Wildcats into a third- place tie in the final league standings and out of the rankings. Those four losses were to 5A's eighth-ranked Gardner-Edgerton, 4A's fourth-ranked Eudora (19-3) and regional finalist Piper (15-8).
Deghand, however, was not sold on the idea that the losses were a direct result of the opposition his team was playing.
"The baseball season is a long one," he said. "It's a game of streaks. You just have to strap it on and play each game. Whichever team plays the best that night is the team that's going to win the game."
Jerod Bader led the Wildcats in seven offensive categories. The sophomore gave Deghand a taste of what is yet to come by leading the Wildcats in batting average (.420), slugging percentage (.565), runs scored (25), walks (12), total bases (46), plate appearances (83) and on-base percentage (.518).
Leif Goleman was the clutch hitter of the ball club. The senior was 14-for-23 (.609) when hitting with runners in scoring position. Hunter Noe led the team with 21 runs batted in and stole a team-best 17 bases.
On the mound, Goleman produced a 3.48 earned run average while tossing a team- leading 50-plus innings for the Wildcats. He gave up 25 earned runs and struck out 56 batters, walking just 16. Goleman threw nearly 900 pitches his senior season and produced a strike percentage of nearly 63 percent.
Taylor Burnett was as dominating a pitcher as any other No. 2 pitcher in the area. The junior finished the season with a 4.12 ERA and a strike percentage of 60.7 percent. He struck out 35 batters while issuing 15 walks.
Deghand will have to find replacements for four seniors who went 67-for-205 (.327) from the plate as a group and pitched more than half of the Wildcats' innings. Goleman, Troy Gower, Noe and Jacob Rupe also combined to score 50 runs and knocked in 51 more.
With the nucleus of players he has coming back and a solid corp of players from this year's 17-3 junior varsity team, Deghand appears ready to make another charge next year and for seasons to come.
"Next season looks bright for us," Deghand said. "We will be able to challenge any team in our league."