Waiting for their shot
Chieftains winless against 6A competition at state
Lenexa When Jace Waters hit a double into the gap in right-center field on Saturday, the Tonganoxie Chieftains were nine outs away from their first victory of the USSSA State Tournament.
Unfortunately for the Chieftains, Blue Valley West still had three innings left to score. BV West scored six runs in the next two innings and won, 8-3, at the Johnson County 3&2 Fields.
"We know we can get close to competing with them," coach Phil Loomis said of the three Class 6A teams Tonganoxie faced over the weekend. "But when it gets time to put seven innings together, we're still figuring out how to do that. It's the little things, like covering a base, getting key hits and not feeling the pressure."
Tonganoxie lost its first game of the tournament Friday night against Raiders Summer Baseball (Shawnee Mission South), 6-0. The Chieftains lost Saturday afternoon against the Shawnee Mission East Lancers, 19-4. With its loss to BV West Saturday night, Tonganoxie wasn't one of the eight teams to advance to Sunday's finals. The tournament contained 14 teams.
JJ's Next Level (based in Olathe) defeated Shawnee Mission West, 12-4, on Sunday to win the tournament.
The Chieftains controlled the first four-and-a-half innings against BV West. Pitcher Logan Forbis struck out three Jaguars batters in the first two innings. Forbis had trouble keeping his rhythm throughout the game, though.
Forbis mentioned he had difficulties establishing a consistent strike zone with some of the calls being made. Additionally, Forbis was hit in the chest by a ground ball that he appeared to block with his glove. The red bruise on his chest suggested otherwise.
"That kind of hurt," Forbis said. "It wasn't too bad. At the end, I was going to ask coach to come out anyways. I didn't want to screw it up anymore."
The incident occurred around the fourth inning. Forbis didn't mention anything to Loomis in between innings and continued to pitch. He stayed in the game for 5.1 innings.
Offensively, Tonganoxie produced eight hits, but most of them came within the first three innings. The Chieftains didn't record a hit in their last seven at-bats of the game.
"We had really quick at-bats and that doesn't give our pitchers a lot of time to rest or give us any time to get anything going," said Waters, who went 1-for-2 with a walk and the RBI double. "We need to try to get deeper into counts instead of trying to swing at the first pitch."
Tonganoxie only walked once, during Waters' second at-bat. His double, which gave the Chieftains a 3-2 lead, was the most critical hit for Tonganoxie. Waters ripped the ball so hard near the wall that infielder Keith Wentz-Hall scored from first base.
"I knew I had to get him in," Waters said of Wentz-Hall. "I guess it helps confidence when somebody else gets on in front of you, so then you just go up there and hit the ball and you're not thinking about it."
Centerfielder Daniel Volk, who went 2-for-3 with an RBI single, flew out to end the inning after Waters' double.
Waters' double was the only extra base hit Tonganoxie had against BV West.
Tonganoxie will travel to Piper for a doubleheader at 6 and 8 p.m. on Thursday. Although that's the last game that appears on the schedule, Loomis said he would try to reschedule more games. The Chieftains have been rained out of two tournaments (Topeka, Lansing) and a separate doubleheader at Lansing.
Chieftains scoring summary:
Top 3: Daniel Volk RBI single (1-1), Grant Ebbert RBI single (2-1)
Top 5: Jace Waters RBI double (3-2)
Chieftains 002 010 0 -- 3 8 2
BV West 011 042 x -- 8 8 0
SM East 19, Tonganoxie 4 (Saturday afternoon)
SM East capitalized on four Tonganoxie errors. The Lancers run-ruled the Chieftains after three innings of play.
Tonganoxie crept back in the game in the second inning to make it 8-4, but SM East scored 11 in the top of the third inning to put the game out of reach.
Wentz-Hall went 2-for-2 with two singles and an RBI for Tonganoxie. Forbis was 1-for-2 with a single, an RBI and a stolen base. Rob Schlict went 1-for-1 with an RBI double.
Chieftains scoring summary:
Bot. 2: Rob Schilcht RBI double (1-8), Keith Wentz-Hall RBI single (2-8), Jace Waters sacrifice fly, RBI (3-8), Logan Forbis RBI single (4-8)
SM East 17 11 -- 19 12 0
Chieftains 040 -- 4 5 4