Bat Cats improve again in ‘06
Only one team ends each season the way it wants to, so the De Soto baseball team was by no means happy with a regional finals loss to Kansas City-Bishop Ward.
That said, former Wildcats coach Steve Deghand said the Cats probably got as far as they possibly could have, and that's something to be proud of.
De Soto fell in that regional championship game 10-3, but Ward went on to win its fourth consecutive Class 4A state title, winning via run rule in each of its three state tournament games.
"We went as far as we could go," Deghand said. "You always wish you could get to the state tournament and we fell one game short, but we had a good year."
Deghand, who will relinquish his coaching duties to replace Roy Hawley as De Soto's athletic director next school year, said no individual moment or game stands above any other when he looks back on the season.
There were highlights.
De Soto had a stretch where it won three consecutive games with seventh-inning rallies. It beat Wellsville in the season-opening doubleheader 32-1. The Cats thumped Baldwin 14-5 in one game and beat Anderson County, in a doubleheader sweep, taking the first game 18-0. De Soto beat Atchison then outlasted Tonganoxie to advance to the regional championship game.
It wasn't anything as tangible as the team's record or as Sportscenter worthy as an amazing highlight that left Deghand with a smile at the end of the season, however.
"The guys learned how to win. That's sometimes the biggest obstacle," he said. "This year we were always finding a way to come up with that big hit or the big pitch or the timely at bat and I think that's a sign of something bigger than just baseball strategy. That's something that's intrinsic -- that no matter what the score is or how the game's going, we're not out of it and we have a shot.
"That attitude permeated through the team. That's what we can, as a school and a program, be most proud of."
It was an attitude that netted De Soto it's best season in years. The Cats 15-8 record was two wins better than their finish in 2005 and seven better than an 8-13 season in 2004.
It was Deghand's fourth-straight improved season -- De Soto won just five games the year he took over in 2003.
Just as no individual game stood out, Deghand said no individual player was overwhelming responsible for the team's success.
Junior Tyler Farmer led the team in most of the offensive categories, earning team-high marks with a .423 batting average, .535 on-base percentage, 28 runs and 30 hits.
Senior Taylor Burnett was the team's leading power threat, hammering out team-bests with four home runs and 19 runs batted in.
Farmer also was one of the team's leaders on the mound. He led the Cats with 48 innings pitched -- 18 more frames than anyone else -- and led all pitchers with more than two starts with an earned run average of 2.48. He also had a team-high five wins.
Burnett led the team with 33 strikeouts. Farmer had 29.
Sophomore Brady Maasen, meanwhile, was effective throughout the season as a reliever. He won his only start and had a team-best 2.26 ERA in 21-2/3 innings.
A glance between the roster, the record and the stat sheet reveal De Soto could be in a very good place next season, even if Deghand and his assistants -- Dustin Jamison and George Walden are leaving to coach at Kansas City-Turner -- won't be directly involved.
De Soto will have major holes to fill as it graduates four seniors, but seven seniors-to-be will return in 2007 to offer incoming coach Joel Thaemert a strong team.
Farmer had the best season of the bunch, but Jerod Bader was a team leader at the plate and on the mound and Riley Pierce, Austin DeGraeve, Aaron Hansen, Jake Bosnak and Jordan Smith should supply more than enough experience across the field and down the lineup.
"I don't know that one (junior) stood out on the course of a year, but I do know that each guy stood out and had their games in which they stood out," Deghand said. "I feel very good about not only where we are in wins and losses. Everything about (the program) from the junior varsity to the varsity, it's in good shape now and I expect it to stay that way. It's in good hands with Coach Thaemert."