Chieftains end high school year with loss in 4A semifinal game
The magic ride ended last month at CommunityAmerica Ballpark for the Tonganoxie High baseball team.
The Chieftains, after upsetting Sumner Academy two days earlier, struck first against No. 3 De Soto in the top of the first.
Keith Wentz-Hall opened the game with a double. Two batters later, Daniel Volk brought Wentz-Hall in with a double of his own and the Chieftains had a 1-0 lead.
Phil George followed with a single and moved to third after a stolen base and a passed ball, but he was stranded at third.
The Chieftains wouldn't score again until the fifth, and one last Tonganoxie rally didn't materialize.
THS fell, 5-2, to De Soto, and ended its season at 6-16.
Tonganoxie coach Phil Loomis said the coaching staff preached to the players all season that the baseball was a simple game of pitch and catch. But the first-year THS coach said the Chieftains struggled with that against the Wildcats.
"During the first three innings, we didn't throw and catch," Loomis said.
De Soto scored a run in each of those innings. Tonganoxie's run in the fifth cut the lead to 3-2, but scored once in the bottom of the fifth and again in the sixth for the victory.
The Chieftains had hoped to get past De Soto for a shot at three-time defending state champion Bishop Ward in the regional finals, but De Soto dashed those hopes.
Still, Loomis said next year looks bright.
Tonganoxie graduates just three seniors -- George, Josh Ova and Joe Park. And, the Chieftains can build on their playoff win, something THS hadn't accomplished since 2000.
"The higher the expectations, the sweeter the things get," Loomis said.
George said finishing his final season in a Tonganoxie uniform was bittersweet.
"We all knew this year was going to be a rebuilding year," George said. "It was good to get the first regional win in six years."
But, George noted, the program is on the rise.
"There's definitely going to be high standards for those guys next year," he said.
In the regional finals, Bishop Ward defeated De Soto. 12-5. The Cyclones went on to win their fourth consecutive Class 4A state title with a championship victory against Eudora in the state title game.