The Red Devils took four losses this weekend against Cowley County Community College, but despite the struggles — including Sunday’s 9-3 and 12-1 defeats — Allen coach Clint Stoy is optimistic about his team as they begin the final week of the regular season.
“In two of the four games in the series, we were in it right until the last inning,” Stoy said. “That gives us a glimpse into the future that we can play with teams like them. They have a chance to win the league and we can play with those guys.
“That is what you have to do in the postseason, you have to beat everyone to get to where you want to get.”
A lot of that optimism has to do with the Red Devils lineup finally beginning to get healthy after having a rash of injuries midseason that derailed a 25-5 start to the season for Allen.
“It is nice to get guys back, but the biggest part about missing time is missing at bats and picking the speed of the game back up,” Stoy said. “Those guys are starting get some at bats and hopefully two weeks from now it starts to click again (in the playoffs). You never hope for an injury filled season, but that is what we’ve been going through and our guys are staying positives. We don’t have quitters.”
One of the key cogs that seems to be getting his rhythm back at the plate is sophomore right fielder Robby Enriquez — who was named the school’s Male Athlete of the Year on Sunday afternoon. Enriquez provided further proof that he deserved that honor immediately following the awards banquet, by crushing a two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth inning to give the Red Devils a 2-1 lead.
The inning ended in disappointing fashion for the Red Devils, however, after a Sky-Lar Culvar double putting runners on second and third with nobody out, but the Red Devils failed to capitalize with any more runs.
There is a reason the Tigers are 38-15 this year and they were able to scrape together a two-run fifth inning off of Red Devil starter Chase Gooding.
Enriquez again provided an Allen answer with an RBI single in bottom of the frame to even the score at 3-3.
Gooding exited the game to begin the sixth with seven hits allowed and no walks with four strikeouts.
“He has been solid all year,” Stoy said. “He signed with UNC-Charlotte this fall in Conference USA and he has a chance to play professional baseball one day.”
The Red Devil bullpen was unable to follow Gooding’s example as freshman Conner Bond surrendered six runs on four hits with three walks in the next two innings and Cowley took a 9-3 victory.
One of the biggest mysteries to the Red Devils’ season has been the recent struggles of sophomore left-hander Jake Butterfield.
Butterfield has been a strong presence in the rotation for the last two seasons, but has hit a rough patch in the second half of the season, that has coincided with the team’s struggles.
On Sunday, Butterfield was only able to make it through two innings with as he allowed seven hits and eight runs in the first two frames.
Butterfield wasn’t helped by his defense with six of those eight runs, being unearned.
After the game — a 12-1 loss — Stoy defended his sophomore by pointing to his track record and character as reasons he will confidently be able to rely on Butterfield in the postseason.
“Whenever we get into the postseason, I am still going to give him the ball,” Stoy said. “He has had four really bad outings in a row, but you are talking about a kid who is a 4.0 student and is an unbelievable character kid — he baby-sits my son, for crying out loud. He is going to get the ball and continue to get the ball.”
Derek Sallee relieved Butterfield in the third inning and didn’t fare any better. The sophomore surrendered four runs without recording an out.
Sophomore A.J. Rolle and freshman Austin Cross provided five innings of shutout baseball after that, but the damage had been done.
The Tigers cruised to 12-1 win and dropped Allen to 28-21 on the season leading into their final series of the regular season against Coffeyville with games in Iola being played on Thursday beginning at 1 p.m.
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