Loss stings, but progress pleasing for Reds
Lansing Reds manager Michael Smith knows this much about his baseball team: it played its best at the end of the season.
Lansing may have gone just 4-26 this summer, but it won three of its last eight games. Its final outing may have been its best.
The Reds dropped a hard-fought 6-5 decision to Geiger Ready-Mix on Thursday night at Sportsfield in their final game of the Leavenworth Baseball League Tournament. The game was every bit as close as the final score indicated.
Just as he's done for the last six weeks of the summer, Reds pitcher Kris Hernandez continued to dazzle on the mound. Meanwhile, his teammates gave him early run support.
The Reds struck first when Matt McMillin's double plated a run in the first inning. They extended the lead to 4-1 on key hits by McMillin, Tyler McNeil, Elias Moya and Chase Horseman.
"We came out and got the lead. We were hitting. Kris was on. Everyone did well," Smith said.
Two controversial calls with two outs went against the Reds, though, and Smith said those plays both hurt on the scoreboard. First, Horseman appeared to make a diving catch in foul territory, but because he was in a cloud of dust the umpire thought the ball hit the ground first. Instead of an out, the batter got a second chance and hit a run-scoring single. Later, a Geiger batter threw his bat and helmet after being called out on strikes. Instead of being ejected - which league rules require and the head commissioner in attendance requested - the batter was allowed to remain in the game. He, too, delivered a run-scoring hit late in the game.
Smith said both calls were game-changing, but he said his team wouldn't use them as excuses for losing. After all, he said his players weren't rattled by either call, and they tried to fight back each time.
"They didn't let it shake them," he said. "They never gave up. They battled hard."
The Reds took a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the sixth, but a two-run double in the seventh gave Geiger the lead for good.
Smith compared Thursday's loss to the Zone Tournament loss to Gardner.
"You don't like to lose," Smith said, "but that was a loss, just like the loss to Gardner in Zone (8-7), there were so many positives to take from it that we can only look forward to next year. Seeing them play like this, you know that you've gotten something out of the season."