Legion falls short in bid for state
By Chris Wristen
The Tonganoxie Post 41 American Legion team failed to qualify for the state tournament when it went 1-2 last weekend at the AA zone tournament at Silver Lake, but it did very little to disappoint coach Andy Gilner.
Gilner was ecstatic about the stellar pitching performances of THS seniors John Volk, Josh Putthoff and junior Kelton Starcher.
"All three of them pitched really well this weekend," Gilner said. "They all gave us a chance to win."
All three were effective on the mound, but Putthoff was the only one to collect a victory. He baffled Nortonville's hitters Sunday afternoon and tossed a five-inning no-hitter as Post 41 cruised to an 8-0 win.
Volk was efficient with his pitches as he fired 14 strikeouts Friday night against Silver Lake, but he didn't receive enough offensive support in 7-2 defeat. Starcher dropped a 4-2 decision Sunday night against Holton.
The problem in all three games wasn't pitching. It was run production -- or a lack of runs. Tonganoxie High struggled to score runs this spring during its 2-19 season, but Post 41 has been more efficient at scoring its base-runners as it has rolled to a 21-8 record this summer.
Clutch hits were lacking last weekend, however, and Gilner said run production will remain an area of emphasis for the remainder of the summer.
"We had nine left on base in the Holton game, three left on versus Nortonville and six left on base against Silver Lake," he said. "Leaving guys on base again hurt us, but we'll get that worked out."
Despite missing out on the state tournament, Post 41 will have a chance to return to its winning ways this week as it enters league tournament play. The squad rolled to a 20-6 record in the league this summer and finished as the regular season champion. As a result, it earned the No. 1 seed in the league tournament and will receive a first-round bye.
Post 41 will begin its quest for the post-season league title when it opens tournament play at 7 p.m. Wednesday at home against a yet-to-be-determined opponent.
The thrill of victory eluded Tonganoxie's players often during the high school season, so the success of summer ball and the opportunity to compete for another championship has the Post 41 players buzzing, Gilner said.
"This is really big for us because it helps us know we can win," he said. "Defeats don't come easy for us anymore, and we take that to heart because we want to win.
"Now we're looking forward to the tournament. The kids want to keep on playing, keep on winning and try to end it on a high note."
-- Sports reporter Chris Wristen can be reached at (785) 832-7147.