It didn't take the 14-U Rebels long to get used to playing with a bigger infield. But they still had the Cardinals to contend with in a series of doubleheaders last week.
The Rebels' players showed no problem making the longer throws and ended up winning the series 3-1, but lost the second game of a doubleheader, 8-4, Thursday against the Cardinals at Eudora High School.
In preparation for the Steamboat Springs Triple Crown National Tournament later this month, the Rebels played two doubleheaders last week with the Cardinals.
On a regulation field, the distance between bases is 90 feet and it is 60 feet from the pitching mound to the plate. Teams in the 14-year-olds group generally play on fields with smaller infields.
For the Cardinals, a 15-year-olds team out of Eudora that plays in the Holcom League, beating a team that practices and plays as much as the Rebels do is an impressive feat. It also bodes well for their players, some of whom are just now getting serious about baseball in their high school years.
"We finally won one," Cardinals coach Steve Krutz said. "We're just learning to get better and get some teamwork going."
The Rebels got out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. And it briefly looked like the game might go the way of the first game of the doubleheader, in which the Rebels overpowered the Cardinals, 12-2.
Scott Brenn and Scott Beecher walked in the inning to put two men on for the Rebels.
Brenn scored on Aaron Rea's ground ball, and Beecher appeared to score the second run by stealing home from third base on one of evening's highlights.
It turned out the Cardinals' pitcher was called for a balk on the play, so Beecher was automatically granted the extra base and the run, but the fans appreciated the effort.
There would be no blowouts in this game, though. Cardinals pitcher Dylan Rust worked his way out of the inning. And the Cardinals came back to tie the game, 2-2, in the top of the second, on runs by Travis Clark and Mike Sledd.
The Cardinals showcased some solid fundamental baseball in the third inning.
After Brian White walked and Andy Schultz singled, Clark laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance the runners to second and third.
Perhaps slightly rattled by the Cardinals base runners in scoring position, Rebels pitcher Jay Baker served up a pitch to Sledd that he rocked into the gap into left center field, scoring White and Schultz, and heading into second with a stand-up double.
The Rebels picked up a run in the bottom of the inning when Rea singled to score Brenn.
The Cardinals then came out and played an inspired fourth inning, scoring five runs to take a 7-3 lead. Schultz and Sledd both picked up key hits during the rally.
In the top of the fifth inning, Rebels second baseman Mike Schrock displayed some nifty glovework.
With a Cardinals runner on first base, Schrock fielded a sharply hit ground ball and, in one fluid motion, tagged out the runner headed to second and threw to first to beat the other runner by a step.
Rebels shortstop Jake Green also made a nice play in the inning, catching a line drive for the third out.
The Cardinals added another run in the sixth inning when Chad Krutz singled, stole second and third base, and scored on an errant throw.
The Rebels finally gave their fans something to cheer about in the the top of the seventh inning when Cardinal Josh Bladale attempted to score from third base on a wild pitch.
Rebels catcher Rea retrieved the ball quickly and threw to pitcher Green, who applied a diving tag for the out at the plate.
But that was the height of excitement for the Rebels in the late innings.
Cardinals pitcher Brian White closed out the game in the bottom of the seventh, getting three Rebels batters to hit ground balls that the Cardinals' infield handled perfectly.
Third baseman Krutz made two standout plays on hard-hit balls, including one for the game's final out.
Despite the fact that the game had no effect on either team's standings - and was more or less a "friendly" competition - Rebels coach P.J. Ostronic would like to see a little more fire from his team at this point. The major tournament in Colorado is less than two weeks away.
"We just need to have all 12 guys compete and want to work hard," Ostronic said. "It's got to be a total team effort every pitch."
The Rebels have two more doubleheaders scheduled before the tournament.