A team trying to rally from a multi-run deficit in the final inning often needs help from the microscopic amount of time or space it takes to turn a baseball game in its favor.
Kapaun Mount Carmel got that assistance once in the seventh inning Friday in the Class 5A quarterfinals against Topeka Seaman. That made it so the Crusaders needed a little more help to unseat the three-time defending champions.
The centimeters went Seaman's way in the final moments of its 3-1 win at Eck Stadium. Two close plays during Michael Sheets' at-bat in the seventh inning could have allowed Kapaun to take the lead or at least extend the game.
Instead, Seaman escaped behind its three-run fourth inning, aided by a pair of Kapaun defensive miscues.
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"If we just field the ball a couple innings, if we make a couple plays, who knows if we give up three?" Kapaun coach Steve Lienhard said.
With one out in the seventh, Kapaun's Eric Peters hit a foul ball near the Crusaders' dugout. Seaman first baseman Ryan Colombo went near the dugout to make the catch and Peters was initially called out. But after an argument and an umpires conference, it was ruled Colombo stepped into the dugout, making it a foul ball.
Peters singled to put two runners on and the next batter, Nathan Degenhardt, reached on a fielder's choice, which coupled with an error loaded the bases.
After a popout, Sheets fell behind in the count before hitting a line drive down the left-field line that likely would have cleared the bases and given the Crusaders the lead had it not landed just foul. Two pitches later, Sheets hit a high hopper to second and was thrown out by a half-step.
The Crusaders had come close to guaranteeing a new 5A champion, but couldn't do enough to wrest the game from a team that rarely makes mistakes in important situations.
"They do the small things right, make the routine plays," Lienhard said. "They made a couple really good, outstanding defensive plays against us. It took a hard-fought win for them to beat us."
Kapaun led 1-0 after the first, and starting pitcher Taylor Floyd allowed one runner into scoring position through the first three innings.
But in the fourth, shortstop Degenhardt couldn't decide whether to try for an out at third or at first and ended up with no play, putting runners at first and third.
The following batter, Thomas Varney, hit a liner to left field that Sheets initially charged before pulling up, and it got by him for a two-run triple. Seaman added a sacrifice fly.
"We represented well, we played well," Lienhard said. "I was really proud of my starter. He did exactly what I hoped he would do — gave us a chance to win."
Blue Valley 8, Bishop Carroll 2 — Blue Valley scored a pair of unearned runs in the second and fended off every attempt by Carroll to build momentum by adding to the lead in the following four innings.
Blue Valley starter Evan Bell pitched a complete game, but seemed to begin to tire in the fourth. The Eagles got nine baserunners against Bell in the last four innings but left six on and made the final out on the basepaths, ending a bases-loaded threat.
Bell threw 119 pitches. Carroll never recovered from early sloppiness, and the Eagles took themselves out of several scoring chances with five called third strikes.
"Nine hits, just didn't piece it together," Carroll coach Charlie Ebright said. "(Starting pitcher Seth Holman) didn't have his best stuff on the bump, and then we kicked it (defensively) in the first couple innings. The unearned runs kind of set the tone."
Blue Valley (16-7) 022 112 0 — 8 11 1 Bishop Carroll (16-7) 000 101 0 — 2 9 2
Salina Central (14-9) 000 00 — 0 5 2 Shawnee Heights (23-0) 453 0x — 12 12 0
Bishop Miege (15-8) 000 000 3 — 3 6 0 Hays (20-3) 001 100 0 — 2 2 1
W—Calvano. L—Unrein. S—Kolarik.
Kapaun Mount Carmel (15-8) 100 000 0 — 1 7 1 Topeka Seaman (19-4) 000 300 x — 3 8 0