The towering 20-foot wall in left field in CommunityAmerica Ballpark is called the “mini-monster.” It often baffles members of the Kansas City T-Bones, the professional baseball team from the American Association who calls the ballpark home.
It did not, however, confuse junior Santa Fe Trail catcher Brian Hawkins, who blasted a two-run shot in the bottom of the sixth to put the Chargers up 3-1.
“With the way Spencer (Bessette) was pitching, I thought that was going to get us the game,” Hawkins said. “He was throwing bullets all game.”
Bishop Ward scored back the two runs to tie it up in the seventh off just one hit and four free passes issued by Bessette. The Cyclones went on to win the first round matchup, knocking off the regional favorite, 4-3 in a 10-inning affair.
“He had been our number one all year, he had gotten us this far,” head coach Jim Duncan said. “It’s frustrating, it looked like there were couple strikes thrown that didn’t go our way. Just a tough loss, especially for these seniors.”
Bishop Ward struck first, scoring one run off three singles in the third inning.
Santa Fe Trail (14-3) took advantage of its first hit in the fourth a leadoff single from senior center fielder Cody Vandevord. He was later plated on an RBI-groundout from senior shortstop Weston Gloss to knot it up at 1-1.
With one on and one-out in the home half of the sixth, Hawkins put it on himself to take the first Chargers lead. The right-hander pulled a fastball left down in the zone, just to the right of the foul pole.
It was the only home run of the day between the three games.
“It felt great off the bat and I was just hoping it didn’t go foul,” Hawkins said.
Needing just three outs to put the Chargers in the regional championship, Duncan tossed his starter back into the seventh. After not walking a batter through six, Bessette walked a pair, and hit two more. The two walks and one hits batsman came with two outs as the Cyclones evened the score.
Unable to get the final out, Bessette tossed 6 2/3 innings allowing three runs off six hits, and punching out six batters in the process. Gloss came on to pitcher the remainder of the contest in relief.
In the 10th inning, Bishop Ward senior pitcher Cole Henley was rewarded with a leadoff walk. He then proceeded to steal second and third base, before being scored on a single into right from junior third baseman Brian Whiles.
Mental errors and runners left on base proved to be the Chargers’ downfall, as they were upset by the four-seed. The upset brought the Santa Fe Trail season to an end, as they say farewell to eight seniors.
“We lose three out of our top four pitchers, we are going to have to come in with some pitching, next year,” Duncan said. “Losing our seniors is really going to hurt us.”
Despite the turnover, the Chargers have plenty to be optimistic about. Santa Fe Trail will return eight juniors from this year’s roster, five of which started in the regional contest.
“We got some young kids coming up that are going to be pretty good,” Duncan said. “Hopefully we can figure it out again next year and make a nice run.”
Highlighting next year’s senior class, Hawkins, whose two-run homer will be talked about all offseason.
“I look forward to a new crop of good junior varsity players, coming in, as we try to keep a really good program going,” Hawkins said.
Bishop Ward rolled on through the regional, beating Perry-Lecompton 9-3 to advance to the state tournament May 28-29 in Topeka.