Five days ago, Lawrence Raiders first baseman Tanner Kilmer and six of his American Legion teammates were on various levels of a massive dogpile that followed the Lawrence High baseball team’s state-championship victory against Shawnee Mission West.
Wednesday night, Kilmer and crew were reintroduced to the harsh reality that baseball can be an unforgiving game.
In the season-opening doubleheader at Ice Field, the Raiders committed three errors, walked 11 batters, hit four more and were swept by Olathe South, 7-4 and 11-4.
For Kilmer, whose last catch at first base prior to Wednesday night secured the state title for LHS, his first loss in nearly a month was tough to swallow.
“It’s not as fun, that’s for sure,” Kilmer said. “And this definitely wasn’t as exciting as the last time out, especially because we were down all night.”
Olathe South took advantage of several Raiders miscues throughout the night. From errors to walks and hit batters, the Raiders set the table, and the Falcons feasted.
After touching the Raiders for seven runs and nine hits in the opener, Olathe South pounded out 11 runs on just five hits in the nightcap. The Falcons were so potent offensively in the second game that they loaded the bases in five straight innings — second through sixth.
“I don’t know if they loaded them, but we loaded them,” Raiders coach Wilson Kilmer said. “By my count, we had 11 walks and four hit batters. That’s 15 gifts right there.”
While the Falcons took advantage of anything and everything the offense was given, the Raiders struggled to swing it. Lawrence struck out 16 times in the second game and 24 times on the night.
“I know we have good players. A lot of them were just a little rusty tonight,” Wilson Kilmer said.
Shortstop Matthew Abel, who just finished his freshman year at Northern Oklahoma Community College, provided a lot of the spark for the home team. In addition to driving in a run in the opener, Abel ripped an inside-the-park home run to deep center field that scored Travis Sanders in the third inning of Game Two. That cut the Olathe South lead to 3-2, but the rest of the night proved to be an uphill battle.
The Raiders loaded the bases and added a run in the bottom of the seventh before bowing in defeat.
One of the most exciting moments of the night came late in the second game after Abel reached base on a fielder’s choice by hustling down to first base to avoid a double play and then stole second. With Abel at second with two outs, Olathe South’s Travis Mills was called for a balk as Abel attempted to steal third base. As soon as the balk was called, everyone, including Abel, shifted into slow motion. Everyone except Wilson Kilmer, who came storming out of the dugout yelling, “run, run, run, run.” So Abel ran and essentially stole home to cut the lead to 8-3.
“When I saw he was going to throw over, I thought he had me,” Abel said. “But then he threw it away and I heard coach yelling so I had to get there.”
For the night, Abel finished with two hits, an inside-the-park home run, three RBIs, three runs scored and three stolen bases.
“With him and Travis (Sanders), what we’re looking for is style of play,” Wilson Kilmer said. “We need those two to show these younger guys the right way to play.”
In addition to keeping their arms fresh for this weekend’s Emporia Showcase, Wilson Kilmer said he learned some things about his pitching staff as well as the rest of his team.
“Our goal in this thing is to win the Kansas Legion State Tournament at the end,” Wilson Kilmer said. “Tonight wasn’t a great start, but we have plenty of time to get better, and I think we will.”