Bobcats give defending state champs a battle
The postseason of high school baseball began on Monday, and there was a buzz in the air at CommunityAmerica Ball Park.
The Bobcats were pitted against the defending state champion Bishop Ward Cyclones in the first round of the 4A Regional baseball tournament.
Although a fairly large crowd was making its own noise, the buzzing came from the wings of the seven-seeded Bobcats, who played the role of the pesky fly and held the Cyclones scoreless for two innings.
Junior Brett Miles recorded two outs in the third but walked and then hit a batter, setting up what would be the fly swatter the Cyclones had been looking for.
The next batter doubled into the left center gap, the ball dropping in between left fielder Garret Chumley and center fielder Zach Lowe. Two runs scored on the play, and the Cyclones opened up the floodgates, following up with four more before the inning was finally over.
"We were looking sharp, turning double plays going toe to toe with the state champs," BLHS coach David Svoboda said. "We would have liked to make a few more plays when the game was in the balance. We had guys right where they needed to be, we just couldn't make the catch."
The Bobcats could have easily packed it in for the night, facing one of the tougher pitchers in the state, Terry Roblez. But with the heart of their order due up, they were determined to respond.
Seniors Kyle Speichinger and Josh Ishmael got back-to-back singles, and junior Alex Smith executed a hit and run with runners on the corners, putting the Bobcats on the board.
"You expect the heart of your order to respond to a challenge, and that's exactly what they did in the fourth," Svoboda said. "We executed that hit and run beautifully and got some momentum back."
Miles came out in the bottom half of the fourth and faced one over the minimum, sending the Bobcats back to the plate hoping to do some more damage.
But the talented Roblez struck out the side in the fifth, proving why he is one of the better pitchers in the state.
"He's got a live fastball, good off-speed stuff and works hard to hit his spots," Svoboda said. "That's a hard combination to beat."
Although Roblez held all but three of the Bobcats hitless, he had trouble not giving up a hit to Speichinger, who went 3-for-3 on the day with two singles and a double.
"I'm used to hitting against pitching like that so it didn't really bother me, and to be honest I was surprised to see him pitch in the first round," Speichinger said. "I'm really glad we battled the way we did against that pitcher. We played him pretty tough for four innings."
The Cyclones finally ended the affair 11-1, scoring three runs off Miles in the fifth inning and two in the sixth off of reliever Matt Fanning, run-ruling the Bobcats and ending their season.
But you can expect that the future for the Bobcats has already begun. Only a day after the their Regional loss, Svoboda is preparing for the next year. He met with all of the incoming freshman and eighth graders who were interested in playing ball and got them ready for summer camps.
"We're going to put an emphasis on developing the kind of pitching staff you need to win at this level," Svoboda said. "We'll likely play small ball a bit more in the coming year."
Svoboda says that his players' presence in the weight room this off-season will play a large role in the style of ball his future teams will play. But look for steals, bunts and hit and runs to be the trademark of this team in the future.