Small ball works for Chieftains against in-town rivals
Todd Brown didn't register an official at-bat Thursday, but the Tonganoxie Chieftains senior stepped to the plate four times.
Brown laughed after the game on the Leavenworth County Fairgrounds and said he should have produced a hit in the 8-0 victory against the Tonganoxie Post 41 American Legion team. But his on base percentage read 1.000 -- he was hit by a pitch and drew three walks.
"I was just anxious to get a hit and wait for my pitch, but it never really came," Brown said. "I got on, so that's really all that matters."
Once Brown reached first, he displayed his speed and stole second base twice. Brown said he's still working to get his speed back to 100 percent. He went through shoulder surgery in January from a football-related injury.
"I'm still not where I should be, but we're getting there," Brown said. "The doctor's not too sure about me playing football next year, but definitely baseball."
Brown's confidence at the plate was obvious. He didn't try to create a Vladimir Guerrero-like strike zone and swing at any pitch. If a pitch was off the plate, Brown saw it perfectly.
"I work on my bat control a lot," Brown said. "I'm really selective and know what I'm looking for. When I see it come out, I know if it's going to be a ball or a strike. I see the ball really well. Not much surprises me unless he's throwing 89 or 90 (miles per hour)."
The Chieftains (3-3) scored five runs in the first inning with a small-ball technique in mind. After a Lance Lamborn RBI single, Erick Lowe walked with the bases loaded and Jared Lamb was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Tyler Lupton grounded out and knocked in a run, then Lowe scored on a wild pitch.
The Chieftains displayed effective plate discipline in their offensive strategy. Post 41 actually outhit the Chieftains, 4-3. The difference was the Chieftains drew nine walks. Post 41 pitchers showed signs of rust in their first game of the season, hitting three additional Chieftain batters.
"I liked the patience at the plate a lot," Chieftains coach Mitch Loomis said. "I like working into a good count where you can hit. If you get walked, you get walked. The guys have been getting into good counts, so we can start driving the ball a lot harder than we've done in the past."
Erick Lowe earned the victory for the Chieftains. Lowe pitched four innings, gve up one hit and didn't allow a run. He walked one and struck out five.
"I told Erick we just wanted to go out and throw strikes," Loomis said. "I told him in the third (inning), if you go 1-2-3 this inning, I'll run you back out there for the fourth. He did a good job and did it. He did a really good job of filling up the strike zone."
Post 41 (0-1) failed to score, but coach Pat Bailey said he was encouraged by his team's first outing of the season.
"We just need to get our confidence and get our swings down," Bailey said. "They've got some good pitchers, but we're just not there yet. Our hitting will get better before long. I think we're going to be all right."
James Bailey went 2-for-3 with two singles and a stolen base for Post 41. Ryan Stockman went 1-for-1 with a single and a walk.
"We needed to get something going," Stockman, a senior, said. "I'd definitely like to see us work on our batting. I would like to improve, myself. There's always room for improvement."
This will be the only time all summer the two Tonganoxie teams face each other.
"It was nice talking on the bases to them, seeing what's going on," Brown said. "It's fun to play against them, since you know them. There's a little trash talking. It goes on. It's just part of the game."