Eudora crashes Tonganoxie upset bid
Tonganoxie again was near-perfect at playing Cinderella to Eudora.
But once again, the Cardinals escaped with a gigantic sigh of relief.
The two teams squared off in Class 4A regional baseball action Monday at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.
Eudora, the top seed in the tournament, faced No. 8 in the quarterfinals.
Last year, the teams had the same seeds in a regional quarterfinal game in Eudora. EHS advanced with a 5-2 win last year in a game tied, 1-1, in the fifth.
In the end, Monday wasn't all that different.
Tonganoxie opened the game with a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on a John Volk double before Eudora answered with two runs in each of the first two innings for a 4-1 lead.
But the Chieftains would answer.
A two-run third put Tonganoxie right back in the game thanks to a slew of Chieftain hits. Jake Herrstrom's single knocked in the two runs.
After that, Tonganoxie's defense settled down. Although all of Eudora's runs were unearned thanks to THS errors, Tonganoxie held Eudora scoreless the rest of the way.
Offensively, though, Tonganoxie couldn't capitalize on what could have been a very productive inning.
John Volk and Josh Putthoff reached base after being hit by pitches -- the starting pitcher hit Volk before a relief pitcher beaned Putthoff. The reliever then walked Todd Brown and the bases were loaded.
Kevin Gill came in as a pinch-runner for Volk.
With Tonganoxie looking to bunt on the next at-bat, Gill was coming home. But the bunt didn't occur, and Gill was tagged out at home. The Chieftains couldn't advance runners in the next two at-bats and squandered the bases-loaded opportunity.
In one last attempt at a rally, the Chieftains threatened again in the top of the seventh. Kirk Rodell led off the inning with a walk before John Volk hit into a fielder's choice. With one out and one on, Putthoff had a 3-2 pitch that appeared to have hit him. It actually did, but it hit his hand, which is considered part of the bat. Therefore, the pitch was ruled as a foul ball.
On the next pitch, Putthoff hit the ball hard, but Eudora turned a double play and survived another upset attempt. As Eudora players hugged each other on the infield, Tonganoxie players dejectedly walked back to their dugout.
"We just couldn't get through the errors," Putthoff said.
For THS coach Andy Gilner, he saw his team , which won four games coming into regionals, rise to the occasion against a Eudora team with just two losses on the season.
"I think we played hard, battled hard," Gilner said. "We're just so close."
Eudora had a superior record heading into the match-up, but Tonganoxie players will tell you that the records meant little Monday afternoon.
"We were all pumped and ready to go," Volk said. "We knew we could hang with them -- we did last year.
"We just fell a little short."
Despite committing six errors, Tonganoxie was almost identical to Eudora in the hits department. THS actually outhit Eudora, 4-3, thanks to Volk's pitching. The senior racked up nine strikeouts and had no walks while also getting Tonganoxie out of a jam or two. In the bottom of the third, Eudora had runners on at second and third with one out after the Chieftains committed two errors. But Volk retired the next two batters. And in the fourth, Volk sat Eudora batters down in order.
"I felt pretty solid the whole game," Volk said.
Volk said errors "killed us," but also noted the defense played well aside from the infield miscues.
Volk still is shopping around for a place to play collegiate baseball. Allen County was at the top of his list, but he still is looking for possible four-year schools.
Regardless of where he plays next year, he knows he won't be wearing a Tonganoxie uniform after Monday.
"It's weird," Volk said. "It's hard to think it's my last high school game. And to end like this really sucks."
Putthoff agreed with his classmate.
"It's gonna be hard not being able to play," Putthoff said. "I would have liked to keep playing."
Tonganoxie finished the season at 4-17, while Eudora improved to 19-2.
THS improved from a 2-19 record in 2004. In those four wins was a monumental doubleheader sweep of Jeff West.
According to Putthoff, Tonganoxie has made strides this year. Previously, he said, the Chieftains had the mentality of just showing up for games. This year, the team came out with the objective of winning games.
The Chieftains had five players compete in their final games at THS -- Volk, Putthoff, Rodell, Samuels and Clay Lamb.
An overall youthful team this season will return in 2006 with experience for the Chieftains.
"Once again, a bunch of young kids come back ready to go," Gilner said.