The bats fall silent as Iola bows out

The bats fall silent as Iola bows out

Ultimately, it’s often the little things that turn into big problems on the baseball field.

In this case, it turned into heartbreak for the Iola High Mustangs, who saw their 2024 season end abruptly Thursday, with a 2-0 loss to Wellsville in the first round of the Class 3A regional tournament.

Unlike their first game nine days earlier — when Iola beat Wellsville’s pitchers in 15-0 and 9-4 victories — Iola’s hitters had no answers for the Eagles, especially with runners on the goals.

“It was definitely a lot,” Mustangs head coach Levi Ashmore said. “We hit some balls hard early, our first time in the lineup, mid-deep lines that on a better day might go somewhere.”

But Thursday’s picturesque weather included a strong wind blowing straight from center field, knocking over just about everything in the air.

Still, there were chances.

A double play in the second inning erased Iola’s first scoring chance after Ben Kerr and Jase Herrmann hit back-to-back singles with one out in the bottom of the second inning.

Herrmann also led off the fifth with a single, but the umpire ruled him out on a key takedown attempt later in the frame. The game was even bigger after Easton Weseloh singled, Nick Bauer was hit by a pitch and Korbin Cloud drew a walk to load the bases with two outs.

But that rally ended with an infield grounder.

The final and best scoring chance came in the sixth after Grady Dougherty had an infield single and moved to second on Herrmann’s walk.

But a pop-up to the pitcher sent the Mustangs back to the dugout without any damage.

THE LACK attack spoiled Cloud’s courageous efforts on the mound.

He got out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning and looked to do it again in the top of the fourth, but a ground ball with the bases loaded was misplayed for an error, pushing through the first point for the Eagles. game.

Another defensive mistake also played a role in the second run of the Wellsville game. Caden Thompson walked with one out in the fifth, stole second and probably would have stopped at third base on Caleb Vicek’s single. But the ball was misplayed in the outfield due to an error, giving him the opportunity to race home with no play to take a 2-0 lead.

“On days when you can’t hit, every pitch is very important,” Ashmore said. “It’s a roller coaster of emotions. It felt like we had one chance, and then something crazy would happen.

That was more than enough for Wellsville starter Joseph Stites, who exited with two outs in the seventh, having reached his limit of 105 pitches.

Cloud greeted reliever Hayden Reeve with a single – Eagle left fielder Dylan Strenth narrowly missed the end of the game on a spectacular diving catch attempt – but Cloud, too, found himself stranded at first.

“Korbin found himself in some situations and came out of them,” Ashmore said. “We had to pull him because of his pitch count. Mac (Leonard) came in and did a good job, but if you don’t score, you can’t win. It pisses me off because I’m proud of what we’re doing offensively. We hit some balls, but we didn’t make some shots that we should have made.

Cloud struck out 11 batters in 4.2 innings, allowing four hits and three walks. Leonard pitched the final 2.1 innings, allowing one hit. Cloud also had two singles, while Kerr, Herrmann, Weseloh and Dougherty had singles.

ASHMORE reflected on a promising season that ended too abruptly, especially for departing seniors Iola Cloud, Leonard, Kerr, Ashton Hesse, Korbyn Fountain, Isaac McCullough and Landon Weide, whose season ended a week too soon with a broken collarbone.