Wildcats face tough test in summer league
The season ended at least one game short for the De Soto High School baseball team, but for those Wildcats who had yet to get their fill of America's pastime, plenty of opportunity laid ahead.
Most of De Soto's returning varsity roster is playing in an 18-and-under baseball league at the Johnson County 3 and 2 Baseball complex.
Rod Farmer -- coaching the team along with Mike Bader, Pete DeGraeve and Regan Crow -- said the experience thus far has been a bit rocky, but valuable nevertheless.
"It's been a tough season," Farmer said Tuesday moments after the Cats dropped both ends of a doubleheader against a St. Thomas Aquinas squad. "It's a learning experience."
De Soto has been playing in the league for more than three weeks and has picked up wins against teams from Mill Valley and Bishop Miege.
A number of losses have been mixed in as well. Farmer said that's just the way it goes, however.
The team plays nearly all of its game against opponents composed of Class 5A and 6A athletes and often faces opponents that are much more dedicated to the league than the Wildcats are.
Not that the players don't care, but the league and its three weekly games are just another part of a busy sporting summer that has most of the players jumping from one activity to another.
Most of the baseball players take part in weekly seven-on-seven football drills at the high school, then wake up early for weightlifting in the mornings. The team played a doubleheader Tuesday evening, then was scheduled for another game just 24 hours later.
"Nearly every player has a part-time job too," Farmer said. "We don't practice at all. Between this, seven-on-seven and lifting, it's tough."
It's still necessary, DeGraeve added.
Former high school coach Steve Deghand also often cited the growth of De Soto's summer baseball efforts as a reason for the program's recent turnaround.
"It's what you have to do," DeGraeve said. "Everyone else does it. Good baseball players keep playing."
The Cats squeezed in Tuesday's games in front of approaching rain showers.
De Soto lost the first game 9-4, then fell again in the second, 7-4.
Brady Maasen started pitching for the Cats in the first game, but a fourth-inning bases-loaded situation brought Jerin Riffel in to relieve.
Three runs scored, however, putting the Saints up 7-0.
De Soto had its best offensive inning of the first game in the sixth. Tyler Farmer led off with a single and Austin Bills doubled, advancing Farmer to third. Kenny Price walked to load the bases.
One run scored when Austin DeGraeve was hit by a pitch and Riley Pierce landed a two-out, two-RBI blooper behind third base to pull De Soto within three, 7-4.
The second game actually started better for the Cats.
Farmer and Jerod Bader both scored in the first and De Soto held a 2-1 lead before things unraveled in the third.
An error let the Saints' leadoff batter on. That run scored when the next batter drove a triple to the right field wall and a throwing error allowed the runner to score from third, capping off the unofficial in-the-park home run.
The third error of the inning allowed yet another run in and the final player scored on a passed ball.
De Soto had lost the lead and any momentum by the end of the carnage.
"It's tough to go a week between games," Farmer said. "We looked rusty out there."