Uneven regional play ends BLHS baseball season
It appeared to be a terrible case of baseball schizophrenia. Basehor-Linwood baseball coach Dave Svoboda thought it was a combination of sore arms and resilience. Whatever the case, the Bobcats played their most uneven game of the season in a 16-8 loss to Baldwin in the first round of regional play.
Baldwin exploded for a 10-run third inning that featured three BLHS pitchers struggling to stem the tide. Going into the bottom of the fourth the Bulldogs led 16-2 and it appeared only a matter of time before the run-rule would be invoked.
And then a funny thing happened. The Bobcats didn't give up and outscored the Bulldogs 6-0 in the last three and a half innings.
Was this frustrating for the coaching staff or an encouraging sign of fight?
"Both," Svoboda said. "I told Coach Quinlan when we were pulled back to 16-8, I said, 'If you told me before the game that we were going to get eight runs I would have said, bring on Ward.' The first two pitchers we sent to the mound (Cody McCoy and Tyler Henley) threw complete games last week and didn't bounce back. They had sore arms. It isn't an excuse. (Baldwin) hit the ball and we didn't. We dug ourselves a hole that we couldn't dig out of."
McCoy started the contest. He lasted only two innings, exiting in the third with the based loaded. He was credited with eight runs allowed. Henley came in to relieve and surrendered five runs while only securing two outs. Justin Gripka then came in and was able to get out of the nightmare third. Gripka pitched the rest of the way, going four and a third innings and allowing three runs.
"Justin was able to change speeds," Svoboda said. "When he can get his curveball over, he will be very effective. At that point, the game really wasn't in doubt. There was no pressure. He just had to come in and throw strikes. He did that."
The Bobcats were forced to play four games combined on Thursday and Friday due to earlier rainouts. The effects of fatigue, mostly on the pitching staff, were obvious.
"As much as we tried to limit Cody's pitches and keep Henley from starting a game or pitching in relief, we couldn't," Svoboda said. "They were both on short rest. Boy, this would have been a great week to play a Wednesday-Thursday regional. A lot of teams in Kansas are in the same boat and I think there will be some upsets around the state tonight."
So why did Svoboda hand the ball to McCoy on two days rest in the team's first playoff game?
"He's a senior," Svoboda said. "He was the number one guy we ran out to the mound all year against the tough opponents. It's a combination of those two things. When Cody has his great stuff, he is capable of getting the win.
"We are also, quite truthfully, playing big picture. Bishop Ward had not seen Tyler Henley. Ward had seen Cody McCoy five times in three years. If we had gotten through the first game with Cody throwing the way we wanted him to, it set us up with Tyler. He had been our hottest pitcher. We set the rotation up that way. Hindsight is 20-20. Maybe you go with the hot guy. I think Cody McCoy deserved the ball based on the fact that he has gotten the ball against the toughest teams every time we have gone out there. And you don't play another one if you don't win the first one."
Bishop Ward would have been the team's next opponent had they won.
Svoboda wants his team to use this year's set back as next year's motivation.
"I was impressed that we didn't mail it in," Svoboda said. "One thing that I encouraged them to do is to use this as motivation. During the summer, think back to this game. When you are working out, use this game. If you don't, 10 years from now, this game will just be an embarrassment. But it can be different. We need this to be fuel to our fire."