Chieftains rally (twice) to reach 7-0
Repeatedly Tuesday at Leavenworth County Fairgrounds, the Chieftains were down. But they were never out of it against visiting Piper.
The Tonganoxie High baseball team recovered from early deficits in both games of a doubleheader to pick up a pair of unlikely one-run victories — 7-6 and 4-3 — and improve to 7-0.
Tied at 3 in the seventh inning of the second game, Tonganoxie got some help from Piper and found a way to win.
With one out, Dylan Caywood drew a walk, then stole second base to give leadoff hitter Ethan Lorance a runner in scoring position.
With two strikes against him, Lorance grounded to the PHS pitcher, who attempted to get the lead runner Caywood at third. But the throw was high and Caywood scored the winning run with no play at the plate.
THS trailed 3-0 after just a half-inning. Although the team couldn’t put anything together in the bottom of the first, Tonganoxie got on the board in the second, when starting pitcher Brandon Yoder led things off with a double that caromed off the wall in right-center field, inches away from a homer.
A groundout by Tyler Lupton advanced Yoder to third and Dylan Puhr drove in the junior with a groundout to second base that cut the Pirates’ lead to 3-1.
The second inning was even bigger for the Chieftains as Caywood, batting ninth in the lineup, led off the inning with a double to the right-field gap.
That brought up Lorance, who tied the game with a two-run blast to left-center, the team’s first home run of the season.
That was all the offense Tonganoxie could muster until the bottom of the seventh but it didn’t matter because Yoder kept Piper scoreless for six straight innings.
Tonganoxie appeared to be in trouble in the top of the seventh when Piper led off the inning with a hard-hit double over center fielder Rob Schlicht’s head and advanced the go-ahead run to third with a sacrifice bunt.
After a meeting on the mound by THS coach Phil Loomis, though, Yoder struck out the next batter and forced the final out with an easy fly ball that was caught by right fielder Tucker Hollingsworth.
Chieftains win 7-6 in first game
The first win was even less likely for THS as the team trailed 6-3 entering its final at bat in the seventh.
After rallying to get within one, Puhr hit a slow roller to first base that would score Jace Waters, the tying run. But when Piper’s pitcher went to cover the bag, he mishandled the toss from his first baseman and Blaize Oelschlaeger dashed home to win the game for Tonganoxie.
Lorance went 2-for-3 with two runs scored in the first victory. Yoder also went 2-for-3 and drove in two.
Waters threw seven innings for a complete-game victory.
By the time the evening ended, the Chieftains had a couple of wins when it looked like things could’ve gone the other way.
“They fight hard,” Loomis said. “They’re starting to believe, not only in themselves but in each other and the things we preach.”
Asked if it mattered that neither win was necessarily pretty, Loomis cracked: “All wins are pretty.”
Even though THS isn’t loaded with Division-I prospects, Loomis said, the coach likes the way his players are working hard, even at the little things, to earn their undefeated record.
“This team is not the New York Yankees, where we can go out and buy whoever we can, get the best we can,” Loomis said.
The first game can be viewed on Sunflower Broadband Channel 6 at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday and Friday nights or 11:30 a.m. on Saturday morning.
The Chieftains travel to Bonner Springs for a 5 p.m. game on Wednesday.