Hardball sweeps Eudora, stays hot
Winners of eight of their last 10 games, it can be said that the Wildcats are on a roll heading into their regional tournament.
And there was no slowing down Tuesday, as the De Soto baseball team swept Eudora in convincing fashion, run-ruling the Cardinals 11-1 in game one and following up with an 8-4 victory in game two.
"It's exciting. We had to win both of these games to avoid being the sixth seed (at regionals)," coach Joel Thaemert said.
The win assures the Wildcats a fifth seed, meaning they'll avoid meeting Bishop Ward - the defending 4A state champion - in the first round of the regional tournament.
To say the wins were big may be an understatement, and it was De Soto's bats that allowed it to happen.
Erik Hill continued his assault on Frontier League pitching in the first game, hitting his third home run of the season in the sixth inning to put De Soto up 9-1. The blast was a three-run job, scoring Brady Maasen and Paul Oswald. Hill finished the game three for four with five RBIs. Maasen collected two hits and three RBIs to help out his own effort on the mound.
Ace of the pitching staff, Maasen took the ball in game one and baffled the Eudora hitters through five innings. He threw a one hitter and surrendered one unearned run while striking out three and walking seven.
The game-changing play occurred in the third inning, when Maasen hit Eudora's three-hole hitter and walked the cleanup. With runners on first and second and none away, the game was knotted, 1-1.
Eudora's Brian White lined a shot up the middle that found shortstop Travis Crow's glove. Crow beat the Eudora runner back to second and fired to first to complete a seldom-seen triple play.
De Soto then went to bat and took the lead in the fourth and added two more in the fifth.
In the bottom of the fifth, Maasen walked the first two batters he faced and Dylan Burford came in out of relief. He retired the next three hitters and got out of the jam, one-hitter still intact. He then worked a perfect sixth inning, slamming the door on the Cardinals.
The sixth was the biggest inning of the night for the Wildcats. They sent all nine hitters to the plate and scored six runs, capped by Hill's big blast.
"Now the errors don't hurt so bad because we're scoring some runs," Thaemert said. "Now every error isn't magnified."
The difference in approach at the plate, Thaemert said, started with the Gardner game. In order to get ready for a Gardner pitcher who threw hard, Thaemert threw batting practice from about 35 feet from the plate and threw hard, trying to simulate the ball getting on top of his hitters quickly. They responded against Gardner, and De Soto employed that method of taking batting practice every time since.
"Now we don't think about lower half, and all that, we just swing the bat," Thaemert said. "We're a totally different team. We just trust our hands and go up there and swing. We're a lot more aggressive and confident, and when you get confident it's easy to hit. We were not confident early."
Daniel Peterson, a sophomore, was on the bump for the second game, and he picked up where Maasen and Burford left off. Peterson gave up one earned run in five complete innings. He struck out five while walking one.
"Peterson pitched awesome," Thaemert said.
Tommy Elmer came in out of relief in the sixth inning and preserved the lead but allowed three earned runs.
At the plate, the hit that broke the game wide open for De Soto was Logan Clark's one-out triple to left-centerfield. With the bases juiced, Clark unloaded on a fastball, driving it to the gap and unloading the bases.
That drive was the centerpiece to De Soto's five-run third inning. The Wildcats added two more runs in the fourth, and that would be all they would need to secure the sweep and move to 11-8 overall.
Last Thursday and Friday De Soto swept Ottawa, 10-8 and 5-2. The first game, 10-8, was played on Thursday in Ottawa but inclement weather caused a postponement for the second game. The two teams met Friday and played the postponed contest. Peterson got the win with a complete game in Friday's win.
Now, the regular season is over and it's either win or go home for the Wildcats. It would take three big wins in a tournament field of eight teams to advance to state. But winners of eight of their last ten, De Soto is playing some of its best ball when it matters most.