Mill Valley pitching ace, bats keep Tonganoxie winless on year
As some coaches often say, players will perform in games as they do in practice.
Shane Cooper reinforced that belief Thursday in Tonganoxie against Mill Valley.
The senior first baseman lined a hit right down the left-field line, giving him a double that scored junior Kirk Rodell. A day before in practice, Cooper roped a similar hit down the line with a runner in scoring position.
When the senior stepped to the plate, Tonganoxie coach Andy Gilner challenged Cooper to hit it "just like yesterday."
The left-handed batter came through.
"I just did what I had to do," Cooper said. "I guess I got it done."
Rodell's run knotted the game at one in the bottom of the fourth and the Chieftains were poised for victory No. 1 on the season.
But in the top of the fifth, Mill Valley answered against Tonganoxie pitcher Josh Putthoff, who previously had kept the Jags at bay.
During one at-bat, Putthoff battled against a Mill Valley batter. The sequence included nine pitches, and on the 3-2 pitch, the Jaguar connected to right on drive that hit the top of the fence.
By the end of the inning, the Chieftains trailed, 4-1.
Mill Valley scored another run in the sixth and held on for a 5-1 win.
Tonganoxie had other chances to score.
In the third, THS had a runner on at third in Nick Volk, but with two out, a hard grounder to shortstop couldn't get the runner to first.
In the bottom of the sixth with Derek Sparks at first and one out, Gilner called for a bunt. Daniel Volk's sacrifice actually allowed Sparks to advance to bases, but Rodell and Cooper both popped up in the infield and the scoring threat was done.
In the first game of the doubleheader, Mill Valley opened in the first inning with a 3-0 lead and never looked back. The Jaguars won, 10-0, in five innings.
"We faced one of the better pitchers in the state of Kansas," Gilner said, referring to Mill Valley's Tommy Fitzgerald, who pitched in the first game. "They pecked away at us. We couldn't string together two or three hits."
Now 0-8, Thursday's game was typical of the season so far. Against some teams, Tonganoxie will have a rough game but respond with a tight ball game, only to see the opponent come on late for the victory in game 2.
The Chieftains on Thursday are home again. THS plays Bonner Springs in games Gilner hopes his team can use to get back on track. But the coach said the Chieftains needed to look more alive.
"I don't know whether it's a lack of intensity, but we need to have a little more self-motivation," Gilner said.
The first game Thursday against the Braves begins at 4 p.m. as the Chieftains seek their first victory of the season.
"It's kind of a downer," Cooper said. "But I think we're a winning team in the making."