Reds fall in Zone Tournament opener
Hernandez leads inspired effort as Reds push Gardner to limit
Lawrence About 10 minutes after the Lansing Reds' first-round game of the Zone Tournament on Friday at Free State High School, the look on Kris Hernandez's face drifted back and forth.
One moment it looked pained as he continued to wipe away beads of sweat that burned his eyes under the scorching sun and 90-degree heat. Other moments, he simply looked shocked that this game slipped away.
Then again, there were moments where the pride shined through. After all, Hernandez said, the Reds played by far their best game of the summer in an 8-7 loss to third-seed Gardner. The sixth-seed Reds (1-18) weren't expected by most people to even make things interesting, let alone lead almost start to finish and have the winning run on base in the final inning.
"That was the (third) seed right there," Hernandez said, "and we were going to beat them."
"We have hope now," he added. "We have renewed hope, and we're just going to keep trying and not give up. We know now that we can compete with these guys. Oh yeah, we belonged."
The Reds took the lead in the top of the first inning when Tyler McNeil reached base on an error and then came around to score on a ground ball by John Sebes. Lansing stranded two runners on base, and Gardner responded with three runs off four hits in the bottom of the first, but the Reds weren't rattled. Instead, they hit back in the top of the second with three more runs. Dylan Delich and Chase Horseman opened the inning with a pair of walks. Both came around to score and tie the game. The Reds could have taken the lead that inning, but they stranded the bases loaded.
Hernandez struck out the side in the bottom of the second, and then Lansing pounced again in the third. The Reds plated three runs for a 6-3 lead as Delich, Jake Walkup and Wilson all crossed the plate.
Gardner plucked back into the game with a run in the bottom of the third and another in the bottom of the fifth.
Hernandez led off the top of the sixth with a double to deep center field. but he was unable to score after Sebes' bunt attempt led to a double play. Gardner used that momentum to fuel a three-run sixth and take an 8-6 lead.
Down to their final at-bat, the Reds showed no signs of quitting. The dugout roared louder and Logan Ryan roared with them as he blasted a lead-off ground rule double to left field. He came around to score on Tyler Wilson's single up the middle. Chase Horseman then was hit by a pitch. Both runners advanced on a passed ball, but McNeil hit a 3-2 pitch to left-center field that was caught for the final out.
Hernandez, who was 3-for-4 on the day, was standing in the on-deck circle when the final at-bat happened.
"Oh I wanted to swing," Hernandez said. "I wanted them to hit or walk Tyler so that I could get up there and hit."
Although the Reds lost, they weren't eliminated from the Zone Tournament. They'll play an elimination game at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Free State.
For more on the Reds, check out lansingcurrent.com and pick up the July 14 edition of The Current.