Tonganoxie tastes victory at home of T-Bones
Chieftains take fifth at classic
The Tonganoxie High baseball team spent three straight days at CommunityAmerica Ballpark, home of the Kansas City T-Bones. The Chieftains went 2-1 in the Butch Foster Memorial Baseball Classic.
Kansas City, Kan. A little more than a week ago the Tonganoxie High baseball team was sitting at 4-5, and that didn't sit well with coach Phil Loomis.
Before a doubleheader at Santa Fe Trail April 21, he told his Chieftains that they were about to embark on a "new season," that everything before then was just preseason.
After sweeping SFTHS and going 2-1 at the Butch Foster Memorial Baseball Classic this weekend at CommunityAmerica Ballpark, the Chieftains were off to a 4-1 start in their "new" season and hoping to keep that momentum going as they play the remainder of their schedule.
Although THS suffered a minor setback in the opening round, losing 7-3 to Spring Hill on Thursday, the Chieftains bounced right back the next two days, pounding Paola, 11-1, and holding on for a 2-0 victory against Perry-Lecompton on Saturday to take fifth place at the classic.
The final Chieftains victory at the home of the Kansas City T-Bones might have been the most impressive, even though they scored only two runs, each coming on a sacrifice fly. It was just the kind of victory the team needed, because Loomis has been harping on the importance of defense.
"Sometimes we're not going to score a lot of runs," he said, noting that the coaching staff tries to put the nine best defensive players on the field. "If you want to see the field, you're going to have to play defense."
Sophomore left fielder Brandon Yoder showed his defensive prowess against PLHS on what proved to be a critical play in the bottom of the second. With one out and PLHS runner Brock Harden on third, the Kaws' Dylan Turpin hit a fly ball down the left field line, which Yoder snagged as Harden tagged up. Without skipping a beat, Yoder gunned a throw to the plate where catcher Tyler Lupton was waiting and applied the tag for an inning-ending double play.
The left fielder said he went through his normal defensive routine while making the throw to beat the runner.
"I felt like it was pretty good," Yoder said of the throw. "I looked up and it was right next to him and passed him."
That play made starting pitcher Logan Forbis, who threw seven innings and struck out seven batters, happy.
"It's exciting to see the outfield get into it," Forbis said of Yoder's throw. "It helped us out a lot, and it kept my ERA down."
Forbis helped himself out in the bottom of the seventh by hanging on for a shutout despite getting in a jam when the Kaws loaded the bases with one out.
After Loomis made a visit to the mound to talk with his pitcher, Forbis retired the next two batters for the victory. Loomis said getting out of the jam was good for Forbis' confidence.
"He stepped back up, got the ball in the zone and made people hit the ball instead of trying to strike out everybody," Loomis said, adding that by depending on the defense, Forbis did just what the coach wanted - THS had "nine guys working as one."
First baseman Todd Brown, who had the second sacrifice fly for the Chieftains in the sixth after Jared Lamb got one in the second, said the team was stoked to get out of the tense seventh inning scenario.
"Defensively, it was awesome," Brown said. "Everybody played big."
A few Chieftains were big at the plate during their three-day stint at CommunityAmerica Ballpark. Jace Waters, who pitched all five innings of the 11-1 win Friday, went 6-for-10 at the classic and capped the performance with a line-drive double that caromed off the high left field wall at the minor league park.
Second baseman Keith Wentz-Hall was 4-for-10 during the tournament and drove in a pair of runs.
Loomis noted that he was pleased with the adjustments a couple of Chieftains have made to their new offensive roles. Rob Schlicht is the team's leadoff man and went 4-for-10 at the classic. Lupton bats in the two hole, and he was 3-for-7 with three RBI on the weekend.
Their coach said by accepting their roles, Schlicht and Lupton have, in turn, got the rest of the team playing better as a whole.
Said Loomis: "It's just a good situation we've got going."