Baseball team falls to defending champs, Bishop Ward
It was De Soto's third game in the big park -- the Kansas City T-Bone's Commercial America Ballpark in Kansas City, Kan.
The first two had gone according to plan. The Cats had advanced through their regional, first knocking off Atchison relatively easily, and then outlasting Tonganoxie.
But there was every reason to be nervous.
It was growing dark and the bright lights were on. A healthy group of De Soto fans rose to cheer as the Wildcats were introduced, but a louder roar erupted when the Cats opponent, three-time state champion Bishop Ward, took the field.
But the Cats weren't nervous, intimidated or scared, and despite all that, they couldn't match Ward in the big park, under the big lights, and in the end, the big scoreboard showed that De Soto's season was over.
The Cats hung close, but a big Ward sixth inning ended De Soto's hope of pulling off a major upset and advancing to the Class 4A state tournament as the Cyclones won, 10-3.
"That's a very good ball club," De Soto coach Steve Deghand said. "We didn't come out scared at all and I never thought we would."
Colby Childers showed just how unafraid De Soto (15-8) was in the first inning, leading the game off with a single into center. Jerod Bader singled one batter later, but Ward turned a double play. Taylor Burnett was thrown out at first, ending the Cats first threat and best opportunity to take a lead.
Ward showed just how powerful its lineup could be in the bottom half of the first, scoring two on a home run to left field.
The Cyclones added two more runs in the third, but De Soto answered in the top of the fourth. Bader singled to center and Tyler Farmer doubled. Brady Maasen picked up one RBI and Kenny Price added another before Austin DeGraeve ended the inning.
"Their pitchers threw strikes and they pumped it up there pretty good, but we hit the ball," Deghand said. "We had six hits and there were several others that were hard shots that just didn't fall."
Ward added two more in the fifth, then blew the game open with four in the sixth before De Soto added one in the bottom of the seventh. Travis Crow got aboard on an error and Bader tripled to bring in the game's final run.
"They hit it up and down the line up, and we fought them for six innings," Deghand said. "It's 6-2 in the sixth. We played pretty good defense, but it really didn't matter. I'm proud of our kids."
Deghand said his team took away plenty from the experience, and not just the thrills that came along with the tournament run.
Having improved in each of the last four years, De Soto found Ward to be more than an opponent. The Cats now consider the Cyclones a goal.
"All the credit goes to Bishop Ward and we wish them well. They'll probably do well again," Deghand said. "That's a baseball factory and that's what we're striving to be.
"That's where these guys are on course to be. We will lose four very good seniors, but we have eight juniors coming back next year and that's got to be exciting."