Tonganoxie fights off ‘intimidation’ but falls in playoffs
Tonganoxie baseball falls in 1st round
The Tonganoxie High baseball team was knocked out of the postseason in the first round of a Class 4A regional tournament. The Chieftains lost, 6-4, to Jeff West at Ozawkie.
Ozawkie The Tonganoxie High baseball team hadn’t played Jeff West since the first week of the season, but that game might have set the Chieftains on the path that led to a season-ending loss in the rematch.
THS lost to the Tigers, 6-4, in the first round of a Class 4A regional tournament May 18. It was a much closer game than the 19-9 Jeff West win back on April 6, but Tonganoxie coach Phil Loomis said that early-season outcome set the tone for both squads this season because the Tigers got off to a good start and finished the season 13-4 while the Chieftains struggled through a 4-13 campaign.
“A lot of times how you set your early-season luck, or patterns or whatever you want to call it, kind of carries over,” Loomis said. “If you feel like you’re in a groove, sometimes you stay there the whole season. If you get in a rut, it’s hard to get out of it, too.”
What’s more, the playoff result was a reflection of each team’s year, as well. Jeff West started hot, with a 5-0 lead, and Tonganoxie tried to battle back but fell short.
“It’s kind of the way our season’s went and their season’s went,” Loomis said.
THS only had three base runners — a single each from Ethan Lorance in the second, Dylan Caywood in the third and Ben Williams in the fourth — through four innings before the bottom of the lineup helped the team break through and cut the deficit to one.
No. 7 hitter Dalton Harrington led off the four-run fifth by getting hit by a pitch. Dylan Fosdick then singled to right field and Austin Hrabe, in the nine-hole, gave Tonganoxie its first run of the game with an RBI-single.
Fosdick and Hrabe came home on a two-run triple from Jeremy Wagner and Williams knocked in the fourth run of the inning with a sacrifice fly.
Loomis said the young team, with just one senior (Caywood) in the lineup, was intimidated early in the playoff game and the coaches just had to get in their faces and tell them to swing the bats and stop thinking so much.
“A little intimidation early created some anxiety and once we got over it, things went pretty well from there,” the coach said.
Unfortunately for the Chieftains, they couldn’t find any more runs in the sixth inning, when they stranded three runners.
After Dylan Puhr led off with a double that bounced off the wall in right field, Harrington drew a one-out walk and Hrabe walked with two down. But Caywood struck out with the bases loaded to end the inning.
In the seventh, Lorance was able to reach on an error but that was the extent of THS production in the final frame.
If any good can be found from the disappointing season or playoff loss, it is that Tonganoxie will only lose Caywood from the lineup that played in the final game (Brandon Yoder quit the team and didn’t play against Jeff West).
Loomis said he had a message for the returning players after the loss.
“This is your wake-up call to know that if you don’t want to feel this way next year, you better do something between now and next year,” the coach related. “I hope a lot of them took it as a challenge.”
With a core of Wagner, Williams, Lorance and Puhr coming back, Loomis thinks he has a group around which a successful team can be built.
“That’s a lot of experience we can rely on,” Loomis said, noting Puhr and Lorance will be four-year starters as seniors.
The coach said little adjustments, such as pitchers throwing strikes (which was harped on all year long), will make a big difference.
Lorance threw all six innings against the Tigers and although he only allowed five hits, his six walks came back to hurt THS.
“In this game, they (JWHS) scored six runs and five of them were put on base by walks,” Loomis noted. “If we make those adjustments, we’ve got a chance to be pretty good next year, I think.”