Local Legion team perseveres in tourney
What a way to go out.
Playing six games in five days, Tonganoxie No. 1 fought back through the losers bracket of this year's American Legion baseball tournament and snagged a tournament title.
Tonganoxie defeated the Leavenworth Blue Sox, 4-3, Sunday in Leavenworth.
The championship game marked the final game of the legion season -- and the final games for coaches Andy and Michael Gilner.
The Blue Sox were on the minds of Tonganoxie players after the Leavenworth team knocked Tonganoxie into the losers bracket of the Leavenworth American Legion Tournament on Thursday with a 5-3 win.
"After the Blue Sox had beat us, they had set out their goal to come out and beat the Blue Sox," Tonganoxie coach Andy Gilner said, referring to his players.
And that they did.
Tonganoxie earned its coveted rematch and then won the tournament in exhilarating fashion.
Leading by one entering the seventh inning, Tonganoxie faced a Blue Sox team that had the bases loaded with one out.
After John Volk struck out the first batter he faced, he walked the next batter and gave up consecutive singles.
Volk, in a jam, had the bases loaded and just one out. The left-hander, though, took care of business. He struck out the next batter and eventually struck out the side when the next batter was called out on strikes.
Volk struck out five in three innings of relief for Kelton Starcher, who pitched well himself in four innings.
Tonganoxie, which also won the regular-season title, finished the year with a 26-5 record.
Andy Gilner said Sunday's game likely was his last as a coach for some time.
Gilner, who was a longtime assistant at Tonganoxie High before taking over as head coach two years ago, was asked by school administrators to resign earlier this year, but he refused. So he was replaced.
That left one last season for Gilner -- the summer American Legion schedule.
"I think last night was my last game for a while, I'll put it that way," Gilner said. "You never say never.
"It was good group of kids to end on. I feel comfortable basically calling it quits, for now."
It helped, Gilner said, to have a great deal of support from his team.
"There were some who said they were going to win it for us," Gilner said, referring to him and son, Michael. "We really appreciated that."
Leavenworth was quite the scene for an exuberant bunch of Tonganoxie players, fans and coaches.
"They wanted to win just as much as we wanted to win," Gilner said. "I know we got a lot of hugs and things after the game from the parents, and we appreciated that."
Leavenworth led the game after two innings, 2-0, but Tonganoxie answered with two runs in the third. Daniel Volk's base hit scored two runs. In the fourth, Tonganoxie scored two more runs. Jake Heskett drove in John Volk with a hit. And a few batters later, with the bases loaded, Todd Brown walked in Josh Putthoff, who was at third.
For the first time in the last few years, Tonganoxie fielded two Legion teams, with Tonganoxie No. 1 made up of older players and younger athletes playing for Tonganoxie No. 2.
Gilner said it was a testament to the community and the local American Legion post that Tonganoxie could field two teams.
"We wouldn't have been able to hit the field without the financial support of the community of Tonganoxie," Gilner said, noting that 27 players competed overall on the two teams.
Tonganoxie No. I 12, Post 23 4
A 7-run first inning propelled Tonganoxie to a win against Post 23.
The game took place earlier Sunday with the winner set to face the Blue Sox.
Todd Brown led that game off with a double and the hits kept coming after that.
Tonganoxie No. I 8, Easton 7
Tonganoxie held on in another nail-biter Saturday against the Easton Outlaws.
Trailing 2-1, Tonganoxie broke the game open with seven runs. The team had an 8-2 lead late in the game when Kirk Rodell replaced John Volk on the mound.
Volk was in control of the game, but Tonganoxie coaches took him out so they could save him for more innings Sunday.
Tonganoxie gave up five runs after Volk left the game, but held on for the 8-7 win.
"We wanted to have him again for last night as much as we could," Gilner said Monday. "That's a decision coaches make and you live and die with the decisions you make."
Tonganoxie No. I 10, Geiger 8
Tonganoxie dodged a bullet in its first losers' bracket game Friday in Leavenworth.
The team had a 4-1 lead, but eventually was in a tie ball game, knotted at five, heading into the bottom half of the sixth.
Tonganoxie then scored five runs, which usually is a comfortable lead.
Geiger, though, answered back with three runs in the top of the seventh before Tonganoxie could halt the rally and advance to Saturday's game against Easton with a 10-8 win.
After falling behind early, 1-0, Tonganoxie fought back with two runs in the second and two in the third after leaving the bases loaded in the first inning.
In the second, Jake Heskett, Hunter Samuels and Todd Brown all walked before Daniel Volk hit a two-run RBI that scored Heskett and Samuels.
The scoring continued in the third when Jake Dent and Heskett crossed home. After reaching base on a walk, Dent scored from third on a balk. Heskett, who also walked, came home on Todd Brown's double.
Tonganoxie saved its biggest inning for last. Tonganoxie's first five hitters eventually reached home. Although most of Tonganoxie's runs came on walks or after hitters were hit by pitches, Kirk Rodell brought in the final two runs with a single.
Joe Park started the game, while Derek Sparks pitched the final two innings.
Leavenworth Blue Sox 5, Tonganoxie No. I 3
Thursday's winner's bracket might have been one of the better contests in the league tournament.
The Blue Sox scored first with a run in the first inning, but Tonganoxie tied the game up in the bottom of the third when John Volk hit an RBI single.
In the top half of the third, the Blue Sox actually had a chance to increase their lead when the Leavenworth team had a man on third with one out after the hitter made contact for a triple. Pitcher Josh Putthoff, though, got out of the jam. Putthoff struck out the next batter, who ran to first on a passed ball on the third strike. After a throw went to first to get the runner out, Joe Park threw home to Putthoff who tagged out the runner coming from third for a double play.
Although Leavenworth didn't score in the third, the team did come back with two runs in the fourth and again had the lead.
The rallying Tonganoxie team again had an answer. Park and Putthoff both scored on Daniel Volk's laser-beam triple down the third base-line.
Tonganoxie held its own going into the seventh, but the Blue Sox spoiled the night for the home team. The Blue Sox scored two runners on a hit that sailed over Kirk Rodell's head in center field.
Down by two runs, Tonganoxie couldn't come back in the bottom of the seventh and lost its first game of the tournament.
Tonganoxie No. I 8, Tonganoxie No. II 0
Tonganoxie No. 2 loaded the bases in the first inning, but came up with no runs Wednesday in the first round of the tourney. Tonganoxie No. 1, meanwhile, came through in the bottom of the first with an unearned run in the bottom of the first.
Tonganoxie No. 1 added two more unearned runs in the second. The team had two more runs in the third and three in the fifth, ending the game in five innings. Kelton Starcher threw a shutout for Tonganoxie No. 1, while Tonganoxie No. 2 had hits from Logan Forbis, Alex Nowasell, Jordan Diekman and Trey Lohman.
Post 23 10, Tonganoxie No. II 2
Post 23 and Tonganoxie No. 2 were tied at one heading into the bottom of the second on Thursday in Tonganoxie, but Post 23 responded by scoring in each of the next four innings for the 10-2 victory. Chris Newton (2-for-2) scored Tonganoxie No. 2's first run. He reached base on a single and then Lohman brought him in with an RBI double. The loss, Tonganoxie No. 2's second in the tournament, knocked the team out of the tourney.