EMPORIA – Things didn’t turn out as expected for Chanute Post 170 A in the Zone 6 Championship game.
Chanute – while fighting tough until the end and navigating that nebulous line of momentum and anxiety – ultimately lost the zone championship game 6-3 to the Iola Post 15 Indians A, as the local rival ultimately advanced to the state tournament on Monday night in Emporia – an evening that comprised beaming sunrays that turned into a night of moderate temperatures.
Post 170 A’s season is over.
Braxton Harding was 2-for-2 with an RBI, while both Caden Schwegman and Aaron Robertson were 1-for-3 with an RBI. Gage Guiot and Keondre Gregory were 1-for-3. The unit chalked up seven hits in the contest, which was a decrease from the two 10- and 15-hit performances in the games leading up to the championship contest.
Iola had seven hits, but Chanute also tallied far more errors with five compared to none for Iola.
On the hill, starting pitcher Kam Koester struck out six, walked one and allowed two earned runs in five innings. Reliever Blake Atwood allowed one walk and one hit in an inning of action.
Post 170 A head coach Mike Lucas said the key to the game was errors, though, as Chanute gave up the game due to mistakes.
“We shot ourselves in the foot playing defense,” Lucas said after his team showed good sportsmanship after the excruciating loss, shaking hands with Iola. “We gave them runs; they didn’t earn them.”
Although Chanute jumped out to an early lead, the junior bunch found themselves trailing late in the game. Dozens of Chanute road warriors in the stands were on edge urging their sons to continue to fight, as teammates in the dugout were doing the same.
Several times Chanute had chances to nudge just a little bit closer when they were down 6-2, especially in the top of the fifth. Harding doubled on a line drive to left field. Jackson Coombs then singled to center field, which allowed Harding to advance to third. With runners on first and third, Schwegman was ready to bring in some runs, but Coombs was thrown out in the middle of Schwegman’s at-bat after being caught trying to steal second base by Iola catcher Drake Sellman; Atwood grounded out earlier in the inning so there were two outs with runners on first and third. But Koester lined out to left field to end the inning.
The junior summer American Legion baseball team finally made up some ground, but could have done more damage in the top of the sixth. Both Guiot and Gregory singled in the inning, and with Atwood walking, the bases were loaded with two outs. Harding was hit by a pitch from Iola’s Nathan Louk, scoring Guiot and putting the score to 6-3; Coombs swung at the first pitch to pop out and promptly end the inning.
Iola would go on to induce a 1-2-3 top-of-the-seventh inning to advance to the state tournament.
Things ended fast for Iola, but conversely, it was Chanute that got off to a fast start. After Iola scored on an error in the bottom of the first – the exact point Lucas spoke on – it was Chanute that scored two straight runs in the top of the second and the top of the third, including a Robertson single to center field allowing Taylor Lassman to score in the second, and a Schwegman single to score Harding in the third.
But it was all downhill for Chanute. Iola’s Bradyn Cole singled to center field which scored Eli Smith in the bottom of the third. This was followed up with a Sellman hard ground ball in the infield, in which Chanute muffed a fielding opportunity, allowing both Ryker Curry and Cole to score; the bottom of the third ended in a 4-2 Iola lead.
The pattern of errors continued in the bottom of the fifth for Chanute. Iola’s Tyson Hermwreck scored on a wild pitch. The last run for Iola – and what proved to be all they needed – was a Curry groundout that scored TJ Taylor to make it 6-2 in the inning.
Chanute would score only one more run after this.
Iola’s Louk was 3-for-4, while Cole was 1-for-3 with an RBI. Louk, also Iola’s starting pitcher, struck out four, walked two and gave up three earned runs in a complete, seven-inning game.
Lucas said as teams advance, things get more intense and are under a microscope.
“It’s pretty disappointing because we weren’t able to play better and they’re solid, but it happens,” Lucas said. “Guys get jitters and things happen.”