Chieftains fall in final frame
Lawrence Shawnee Mission East, a Kansas Class 6A school, might have won the Sunflower League baseball title this past spring, but the Class 4A Tonganoxie Chieftains didn't feel they were at much of a disadvantage Sunday at the Lawrence Free State fields.
"We can play with them, toe to toe, if we just stay focused seven innings," first baseman Grant Ebbert said. "We can play with the best."
Unfortunately for Tonganoxie, it lost focus in the final inning of the 7-5 loss to SM East.
The Chieftains led, 4-2, in the top of the seventh inning. However, SM East scored five funs in the inning on four walked Lancer batters and two hits to secure the victory.
"I think these guys want to be on the premier level of 4A baseball," coach Mitch Loomis said. "We can compete on the top level in the state of Kansas in baseball, but we have to figure out mentally how to get where those teams are."
Tonganoxie trailed, 7-4, entering the bottom of the seventh. Lance Lamborn walked, then Jared Lamb ducked and got hit in the helmet with a curve ball.
Ebbert stepped to the plate with two outs and runners on first and second base. He was down to his final strike, but he found a way to loop a pitch over the first baseman's head and into the outfield for a base hit, scoring Lamborn.
"When you're up in the count, swing big, but when you're down in the count and have two strikes like I did, throw the hands," Ebbert said. "I just turned my hands on the ball."
Ebbert was 2-for-2 with two singles and two RBI. In his first single, he poked a line drive to the opposite field in left. The hit that looped over the first baseman landed in right field.
"He has really good, natural bat speed," Loomis said of Ebbert. "He gets his hands going, so when he gets down in the count, he has the ability to catch up with any kid of pitch they throw."
Tonganoxie (7-7) grounded out to end the game after Ebbert's RBI single in the seventh.
Blaize Oelschlaeger had the most exciting at-bat for Tonganoxie in the bottom of the third when he drove a pitch the opposite way in the right-field corner.
He displayed respectable speed on the bases and easily had a stand-up triple. Oelschlaeger quickly looked at the SM East defense as he approached third base and noticed a relay error from the outfield. Oelschlaeger rounded third base, in stride, and scored on the Lancers' error.
"I just took off running and didn't stop," Oelschlaeger said. "It was in the hole, so you just have to keep going and follow the coach's instructions. The right fielder was playing almost in right center, so there was a big hole, I hit it toward it and it fell.
Most SM East players came from the Lancers' junior varsity team from last spring, but a handful will likely see extensive varsity baseball next season.
The Chieftains went 1-4 in the weekend tournament in Lawrence. Every team they played represented Class 6A competition. Tonganoxie also lost to Olathe South, Free State and Lawrence High. It defeated Blue Valley Northwest on Friday.
SM East 7, Tonganoxie 5
SM East 100 010 5 -- 7 6 2
Tonganoxie 022 000 1 -- 5 9 2
Tonganoxie scoring summary:
Bot. 2 -- Lance Lamborn RBI single (1-1)
Grant Ebbert RBI single (2-1)
Bot. 3 -- Blaize Oelschlaeger tripled, scored on SME error (3-1)
Logan Forbis RBI single (4-1)
Bot. 7 -- Grant Ebbert RBI single (5-7)