Bats fall silent as Iola bows out

Too many missed chances at the plate and pair of missed plays in the field spelled doom for Iola High's baseball team Thursday. The Mustangs were eliminated from the playoffs with a 2-0 loss to Wellsville.

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Sports

May 10, 2024 - 3:05 PM

Iola High's Korbin Cloud delivers a pitch Thursday against Wellsville in the Class 3A Regional Tournament. Photo by Richard Luken / Iola Register

In the end, it’s often the little things that turn into big problems on the baseball field.

In this case, it turned into heartbreak for Iola High’s Mustangs, who saw their 2024 season come to an abrupt end Thursday, with a 2-0 loss to Wellsville in the opening round of the Class 3A Regional Tournament.

Unlike their first matchup nine days earlier — when Iola battered Wellsville’s pitchers in 15-0 and 9-4 victories — Iola’s hitters had no answer for the Eagles, particularly with runners on base.

“It was a lot of things, really,” Mustang head coach Levi Ashmore said. “We hit some balls hard early, in our first time through the lineup, some medium-depth line drives that on a better day might go somewhere.”

But Thursday’s picturesque weather conditions included a brisk wind blowing straight in from center field, knocking down pretty much anything airborne.

Still, there were chances.

A second-inning double play erased Iola’s first scoring opportunity after Ben Kerr and Jase Herrmann hit back-to-back one-out singles in the bottom of the second inning.

Herrmann led off the fifth with a single as well, but the umpire ruled him out on a key pickoff attempt later in the frame. The play loomed even larger after Easton Weseloh singled, Nick Bauer was hit by a pitch and Korbin Cloud worked a walk to load the bases with two outs.

But that rally ended with an infield grounder.

The last, best chance at scoring came in the sixth after Grady Dougherty legged out an infield single and moved up to second with Herrmann’s two-out walk.

But a pop-up to the pitcher sent the Mustangs back to the dugout again with no damage done.

THE LACK of offense spoiled Cloud’s gutty effort on the mound.

He worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, and looked to do so again in the top of the fourth, but a ground ball with the bases loaded was misplayed for an error, pushing across the Eagles’ first run of the game.

Another fielding error also played a role in Wellsville’s second run of the game. Caden Thompson walked with one out in the fifth, stole second and likely would have stopped at third base on Caleb Vicek’s line drive single. But the ball was misplayed in the outfield for an error, giving him the opportunity to scamper home without a play for the 2-0 advantage.

“On a day when you can’t hit, every single pitch is so important,” Ashmore said. “It’s a roller-coaster of emotions. You felt like we’d have a chance, and then something crazy would happen.”

That was more than enough for Wellsville starter Joseph Stites, who exited with two outs in the seventh, having reached his 105-pitch limit.

Cloud greeted reliever Hayden Reeve with a single — Eagle left fielder Dylan Strenth narrowly missed ending the game on a spectacular diving catch attempt — but Cloud, too, was left stranded at first.

“Korbin got into some situations and pitched out of it,” Ashmore said. “We had to pull him because of his pitch count. Mac (Leonard) came in and did a good job, but if you don’t score, you can’t win. It irritates me because I take pride in what we do offensively. We swung at some balls, and we didn’t swing at some strikes we should have.”

Cloud struck out 11 batters over 4.2 innings, allowing four hits and three walks. Leonard pitched the final 2.1 innings, allowing one hit. Cloud also singled twice, while Kerr, Herrmann, Weseloh and Dougherty had singles.

ASHMORE reflected on a promising season that ended all too abruptly, particularly for Iola’s outgoing seniors Cloud, Leonard, Kerr, Ashton Hesse, Korbyn Fountain, Isaac McCullough and Landon Weide, whose season ended a week too early with a broken collarbone.

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