Defense falters as Chieftains tumble against Pirates on road
The heartbreak losses keep coming Tonganoxie's way.
Playing Monday at Piper, Tonganoxie dropped game 1 by a 2-1 score and had a 5-1 lead in the second game.
But the Chieftains couldn't hold onto the advantage and the Pirates rallied for a 13-7 win and a doubleheader sweep.
"The hitting was there," THS coach Andy Gilner said. "The defense failed.
"We've got good pitching. We just didn't play as well defensively as we did in the past."
Although the defense usually has been Tonganoxie's focal point in previous games, the offense has broken from its slumber in game 2 contests against Basehor-Linwood and Piper. Against BLHS on Thursday, the Chieftains scored eight runs, while Monday's second game included dependable hitting from senior Derek Sparks and junior Kirk Rodell, who connected for a two-run home run.
Gilner also was pleased with Sparks' relief pitching in game 2.
"Sparky came in and finished the last game and pitched well," Gilner said.
Thursday, Basehor-Linwood roughed up Tonganoxie in game 1 with a 10-1 victory, but THS became a resilient group in the second game.
Trailing 8-0 heading into the bottom of the fourth, the Chieftains answered three runs. Sparks started the inning with a double, Rodell dropped in a single and two batters later Kelton Starcher provided another hit. Freshman Jacob Herrstrom followed with another hit and the lead was cut to 8-3.
The Bobcats knocked in another run in the sixth, but with one run in the fifth, two in the sixth and three in the seventh, the Chieftains assembled a steady rally and sent the games into extra innings. Sparks, Starcher and Herrstrom again were key hitters in the inning as the boisterous home crowd cheered on the Chieftains on a frigid night.
In the top of the ninth, however, the Bobcats extinguished Tonganoxie's fire.
Basehor-Linwood went on an offensive tear, scoring nine runs on its way to an 18-9 win.
The Chieftains had victory No. 1 in their grasp, but couldn't finish the rally.
"The bats showed signs of life," Gilner said.
Sparks went 4-for-5 in the second game, including two doubles. Rodell finished 3-for-4 and Herrstrom went 4-for-5.
Game 1, which was televised by Sunflower Broadband Channel 6, wasn't Tonganoxie's best performance, but the cameras caught an unusual play at home plate.
With a Basehor-Linwood runner at third, the BLHS batter hit a dribbler down the first-base line. THS first baseman Shane Cooper bobbled the ball and then tried to tag the runner, but collided with him. The ball then was thrown to catcher Jake Heskett as the other Bobcat runner headed for home. The two collided and the runner was ruled safe, although coach Andy Gilner and assistant coach Michael Gilner had a lengthy discussion with the home-plate umpire. The coaches argued the runner should have slid.
Heskett left the game and did not return for game 2.
Now 0-6 and 0-2 in the Kaw Valley League, the Chieftains will entertain Mill Valley on Thursday.
"We're at home, but you know Mill Valley will come in with a good ball club," Andy Gilner said.
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