The loss of ace pitcher Brock Long four games into its season could have sent Medicine Lodge (16-2) into a downward spiral. The signs were there. Morale seemed to be down in the days following Long's season-ending knee injury he first suffered playing basketball, and coach Jeff Clark didn't want it to continue.
"We were taking game infield and we could tell that everyone was down about it," pitcher Joe Dohrmann said. "Coach just got us together. He told us that losing Brock was a huge thing. But he knew we had a good team, and he knew what we could do. We just had to get over it."
The team did manage to overcome the injury. It suffered its only two losses of the season against Wichita Trinity and Independent, and boasts the best record in the Central Plains League at 13-2. Medicine Lodge is the No. 2 seed in the Douglass regional and will face the winner of the Independent (12-8) and Belle Plain (2-16) quarterfinal.
Dorhmann and Zach Larkin are a combined 10-0 and have played a large roll in after the loss of Long. Larkin said the team really had to come together to reach this point, and if they could continue on the same route this season would be a special one.
"He was the ace of our pitching staff," Larkin said. "And yeah it would make it a lot more special, especially if we go to state without him. Just to know that we did it without our best payer would mean a lot to us."
Carroll sees big picture — Bishop Carroll's goal of becoming the City League champion wasn't just about claiming the title and having bragging rights. It was about the bigger picture.
By going 16-0 in the City League the Eagles boosted their overall record to 18-2. This warranted a No. 1 seed in their regional. Carroll will face West (0-20), a team that it run-ruled twice, in its first regional game Wednesday.
If it wins, Carroll would take on the victor in the Kapaun Mount Carmel (13-7) vs. Winfield (13-7) matchup, two evenly matched teams that will have to throw their best at each other in order to advance.
"Getting a No. 1 seed helps a lot because you don't have to face a team that will force you to use your best pitcher in the first game," Carroll catcher Tucker Chadd said.
Chadd is one of nine Carroll starters batting at least .377. The team is hitting .410 on the season and has 21 home runs. These numbers are even staggering for coach Charles Ebright, who has had the chance to field some dominant squads during his time at Carroll.
"Looking back at the season, it gives us confidence that we can play at a high level," Ebright said. "We know that if we show up and play the way we're supposed to, we've got the personnel to play with anybody."