Close losses lead to disappointment
De Soto baseball coach Joel Thaemert isn't looking for any sympathy. He can't help but think, though -- the Wildcats were so close all season. What if he'd done something differently? What if a bunt had gotten down or a ball had been caught? What if that grounder slips through the gap or that line drive lifts over the glove?
De Soto finished 12-9 and lost in the first round of the regional tournament, falling 6-4 to Kansas City-Piper. Still, the Cats worst loss of the season was a 10-6 setback to Osawatomie. When they lost, it was by an average of just two runs. When the Cats won, it was by an average of nearly nine runs.
"We just lost too many close games," Thaemert said.
It was a season that at first looked promising. De Soto was coming off three consecutive trips to the regional championship game and returned a core of seniors talented enough to leave any new coach salivating.
Thaemert said it was never that simple, however. He said his style is different than that which the team had been playing in the past, and that made for a difficult transition for the seniors three-years deep in the methods of former coach Steve Deghand, who left the team to become the school's activities director.
"It was difficult for them to have someone new come in," Thaemert said. "It's like working for a new boss. The seniors were great, they were super to work, probably better than any group I've had recently.
"They were the guinea pigs, coming into something completely new with new coaches and new assistants. I can't imagine being a player in that situation."
Thaemert's brand of ball -- bunting, stealing and all-around speed -- shined through at times, but the Cats showed some old-fashioned power at other times during the season. Getting any of it to work consistently proved a problem, however.
De Soto opened the season with a 13-2 victory against Wellsville, but dropped the second game of the doubleheader, 4-1.
That would become a pattern. Though the team swept Central Heights, it won the first game 17-6, then eked out the second one, 10-9. It beat Osawatomie 16-5 in the first game, then lost 10-6 in the second, beat Prairie View 10-6 in the first and lost 8-6 in the second.
De Soto let slip several key games to the better teams in the Frontier League, falling 1-0 to Spring Hill, then 7-6 to Ottawa and 6-3 to Louisburg.
A 10-6 regular season-ending win against Gardner had Thaemert believing the team was primed for a run, however. It nearly backed him up on that, threatening to knock off the No. 2 seed in the tournament, Piper, with the bases loaded in the seventh inning.
"The Gardner win (was a highlight.) We really thought we were coming on at the right time," he said. "That was really a fun game. And that Piper game was great and exciting too, but we didn't make the plays when we needed to offensively."