Reds bounced from Zone Tourney
Lawrence When Lansing Reds baseball manager Michael Smith turned in his squad's roster to tournament officials for the American Legion Class A Zone Tournament, he received a funny look.
He was asked if his roster of mostly 13- and 14-year-olds belonged in the 16-and-under tournament. Not only were they young, but they entered the tournament with a 1-17 record.
Smith's sixth-seed Reds showed they definitely belonged as they took third-seed Gardner to the wire in an 8-7 loss Monday at Free State High School. On Tuesday they dropped a hard-fought 8-0 decision to Bishop Ward.
Tuesday's game wasn't up to par by Smith's standards, but he was ecstatic with the way his players competed Monday.
"I think they learned what they can do against kids their own age," Smith said, citing the fact that the Reds' dismal record primarily was the result of his young squad facing opponents who are 17, 18 and 19 years old. "I just think they need to get that confidence and keep that confidence."
The Reds, now 1-19, had plenty of positives to show for their effort against Gardner. They sprung to an early lead behind timely hits by Kris Hernandez and John Sebes. Tyler McNeil, Dylan Delich, Chase Horseman and Jake Walkup battled long counts at the plate. Horseman and McNeil aggressively took extra bases for runs. Logan Ryan laced a double that sparked a last-inning rally. Tyler Wilson made play after play at shortstop. Hernandez sparkled both on the mound and at the plate as he went 3-for-4 and pitched a complete game.
For the first time all summer, Lansing coach Phillip Smith said, the Reds looked like a team.
"We came in here 1-17 and put up seven runs against the No. 3 team," he said. "We've all come together. We played as a team. Everyone has each other's back. That's what I was hoping for the first week."
Hernandez said the Reds learned plenty about themselves by finally facing players their same age. Among other things, he said, they realized they are a better team than they originally believed they were.
"We have hope now," he said. "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 next play a 6 p.m. Friday doubleheader against the Leavenworth Blue Sox at Lansing High School.