Salina All things come to an end, but Kansas City (Kan.) Ward's dominance of the Class 4A state baseball scene will last another year.
Eudora High's season-long quest to dethrone Ward and capture the program's first title came to an end Saturday when the Cyclones defended their crown with a 16-3 victory in the state championship game.
The Cyclones turned a 5-2 lead into a rout, scoring 10 runs on nine hits in the fourth inning to capture their state-record fourth consecutive championship.
As K.C. Ward celebrated, the Cardinals could only lament the nightmarish inning.
"We couldn't make plays," said Rodney Spillman, one of seven Eudora seniors playing in their last game.
Eudora's first championship appearance got off on the right foot, as starter Kent Swanson dispatched the potent Cyclone lineup in the first inning. The Cardinals' offense responded with a pair of runs in the home half of the inning to take a 2-0 lead.
The Cyclones, though, had a response of their own, scoring three runs in the second on two hits and the first of four Eudora errors to take a one-run lead.
The Cardinals' title hopes began to fade as the Cyclones added two more in the third, chasing Swanson.
The hopes then were put to rest in the fourth, as every Ward ball hit off Eudora reliever Kelson Boyer seemed to find a hole.
The Cardinals committed two more errors in the inning, helping the Cyclones pull away.
"This one will be a tough one to swallow," Eudora coach Dirk Kinney said. "All we needed to do was make plays and field the baseball, and we did neither. But I'm proud of these guys, and these seniors were great to work with."
Despite the disappointment in the season's end, the Cardinals found positives in their 24-2 season.
"Last year, we thought, was a season to remember," Spillman said. "This year will be a season that will never be forgotten. It's been such a blessing to play for coach Kinney and this team."
More about the game
Eudora advanced to the title game by dispatching fifth seed Topeka Hayden, 8-2, earlier in the day.
Senior Kyle Brouhard proved to be the Cardinals' semifinal superhero, punishing the Wildcats from the mound as well as the plate.
Brouhard's complete-game five-hitter, which included eight strikeouts, was only overshadowed by the senior's third-inning grand slam. With the bases loaded and the Cardinals up 4-1, Brouhard blasted a Dustin Holthaus fastball over the center-field wall to cap a five-run inning and give Eudora an insurmountable 8-1 lead.
"I was 0-for-2 with two strikeouts, so I told myself I was due," Brouhard said. "They had a change of pitcher, and I love right-handers who throw for power. He laid a high fastball in there, and I took advantage."