Bad innings plaguing baseball team’s efforts
Although Tonganoxie High School's baseball team lost both its games against Mill Valley on Monday, Coach John Lee said his young team was improving with each game.
The two losses brought the team's record to 0-5, but Lee said his team had been one inning away from winning each of those games.
"We're always getting better," he said. "We're not winning games, and that's what's disappointing, but we're getting better."
The team was 0-3 going into its first game against the Jaguars, but in the first inning, the Chieftains looked like a different team.
They opened the game with a three-run first inning. Three of the first four Chieftain batters made it all the way back to home plate.
And though the Jaguars closed out the inning with two straight strikeouts, the Chieftains rebounded with some defense of their own to hold Mill Valley scoreless in the inning.
During the next five innings, Mill Valley held Tonganoxie scoreless. It scored one run in the second and then erupted for five runs in the fourth.
"At first, we were cutting down on bad games," Lee said. "Now we need to cut down on bad innings. Once we lose the bad innings, we can start getting some wins."
The Jaguars tallied a run in the fifth and won the game, 7-4.
In the second game, Mill Valley jumped out to a 4-0 lead after two innings, and then converted seven Tonganoxie third-inning errors into six third-inning runs.
It was over from there, and the Jaguars rolled to a 13-1, five-inning win.
Despite a few bad innings, the Chieftains aren't having a bad season.
Although the team doesn't have a phenomenal batting average, Tonganoxie is hitting .246 through its first five games. That average includes three players batting better than .400.
Kyle Wedel is batting .417 after going 1-3 against Mill Valley. He leads the team in getting on base: He's been there 16 times.
David Saultz is batting .444, and he shares the team's RBI lead with Kyle Rodell at four.
Zach Sanders has the team's hottest bat at this point. He's hitting .455 and has reached base 11 times.
Lee said he's pleased with how his young pitching staff was maturing.
"Before this year, none of these guys had pitched varsity," Lee said. "But with two senior pitchers with broken hands, they got thrown into a situation they might not be ready for."
So far, six pitchers have seen mound time for the Chieftains: Ryan Lowe, who broke a bone in his hand after pitching one game, Matt Alexander, Saultz, Kelly Woelk, Jewell and Chuck Riddle.
Those six have combined for 16 strikeouts, 18 walks and a 7.70 ERA.
"I'm very proud of our young pitchers," Lee said. "They just need to keep working hard and stay focused."