HUMBOLDT The wild and crazy ride for 2018 Iola baseball came to an end Wednesday night in front of a packed, raucous crowd at Humboldt Sports Complex.
The Post 15 Iola Indians fell 5-0 and 3-2 to the Kansas AAA American Legion State Champions, the Salina Falcons. The games were part of a best-of-three series to determine who would represent the state of Kansas in the Mid-South Regional tournament in New Orleans next week.
The losses drop Iola to 24-8 overall.
Im feeling pretty down, honestly, first baseman Lance Daniels said. I feel like they were a good team but they were very beatable. If we wouldve put the bat on the ball wed be going to New Orleans instead of them.
THE CROWD roared its loudest around 8:56 p.m.
It had been a tough sit for fans eager for one thing to go their way. After a 5-0 slog that saw good pitching but very little to speak of on the offensive end in game one, game two was shaping up to be more of the same.
It was the top of the sixth inning and the Indians trailed 3-0 after the Indians outfield lost a fly-ball in the third allowing two runs to score setting up the third to score a batter later.
Center fielder Isaac Vink and short stop Daylon Splane were on first and third with two outs. Daniels was up to bat. With two strikes and multiple hacks at the ball, Daniels launched a ball deep in the center field, scoring both runners and giving the Indians offense their first sign of life all evening.
I just told myself that I had to do something to get this crowd and us players going, Daniels said. It sparked us a little bit but not enough.
Salina recovered and got out of the inning leaving starter Ethan Tavarez to try and shut the door for a final time to allow his offense one last shot to squeeze in a run and move the series to tonight.
He did just that, pitching his sixth shutout inning. In all, Cal Leonard (who started game one), Vink, Jackson Aikins and Tavarez pitched 12 shutout innings. It was just one inning each game where Salina was able to get their foothold and hold on tight to the lead.
There were questions when it was learned that both top starters for the Indians (Derek Bycroft and Splane) would be unavailable to pitch on Wednesday but the group that took their place did almost as well as you can do.
There are games where you can afford runs and games where you cant and with Salinas pitching being as strong as it was, Wednesday was just one of those nights where even a little allowed offense was too much.
We just didnt score enough, Tavarez said. That and defensive errors. If we dont drop that ball in right field, we win this game. Errors hurt us in the first game, too. I was proud what I did on the mound and I thought Cal and Isaac did really well in the first game. It just didnt come together.
WEDNESDAY ends a three-year journey for this team. Next year things will look different.
Splane will head to Mississippi after getting a scholarship to play at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and Daniels will be off to Army basic training here in a couple weeks.
Ive really loved playing with these guys the last three years, Daniels said. Its been fun and amazing.
In addition to those two, Tavarez will most likely not play his final year of eligibility for the American Legion as hes joining the Allen Community College baseball team come this school year.
I was wanting to take this summer off but my friends on the team and the coaches talked me into it, Tavarez said. So next summer, after playing a year at Allen, I think Im going to take that break.
Plenty returns next year for Iola but Wednesday did close a very successful chapter in the history of Iola baseball. Whether or not theyll be back here again next year, who knows? Time will tell.