One of the primary factors for success on the baseball diamond is taking advantage of what the other team gives you.
Salina South capitalized on Salina Central miscues with numerous two-out hits in a 14-3 victory over the Mustangs on Tuesday night. Central proceeded to make the Cougars pay for their mistakes in the second game of the doubleheader, where the Mustangs avoided the sweep with a 6-2 win.
None of the players or coaches in either dugout left Dean Evans Stadium completely satisfied or totally surprised at what took place. It marks the eighth time in the last 12 years that the Salina rivals have split their regular season doubleheader.
“The first game we came ready to play,” South senior Layne Haddock said. “We played as a team and had fun.
“We came into the second game and we were too lazy. We just need to be able to focus.”
“The first game it felt like we weren’t into the game,” Central senior Ethan Kickhaefer said. “We weren’t plugged in and we were making simple mistakes.
“The second game we made those easy plays and didn’t give up the unearned runs.”
Errors were certainly a factor in the opener when 12 of the Cougars’ 14 runs were unearned. Central had four errors in the contest, but never more than one in an inning, so South still had to come up with the key hits.
That they did. Thirteen of the Cougars 14 runs came with two outs. Ten of South’s 13 hits came after there were two outs on the board.
“We gave up 13 unearned runs in the two games and that shouldn’t happen with our kids,” Central coach Dee Kolzow said. “But you’ve got to give South credit. Every time we made a mistake, they took advantage."
The Cougars (3-5) scored four unearned runs in the third inning when they took the lead for good. South was already up 6-2 when it added eight runs in the sixth inning, with seven of the eight in that inning also unearned and coming with two outs.
The Cougars got production from both ends of the lineup in the opener. No. 8 and 9 hitters Tiger Humm and Braden Diehl scored three runs each. Haddock was 2 for 4 with six RBI at the top of the order, while No. 2 hitter Luke Streit had four hits and drove in two.
With a 3-2 count and two outs in the third, Haddock had a two-run single that put South up 4-1. The count was again full with two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth when Haddock's double to left-center drove in all three runners.
“There are a lot of pieces there that I really like,” South coach Kris Meis said. “A lot of these kids are playing their first year of varsity but they’re getting locked in now. We knew it would be a transition to try to get them to play the Cougar way.
“Central’s got a veteran ball club and for us to come out and do what we did in the first game was big for us.”
Kickhaefer was 3 for 3 with two RBI and Brogen Richardson had two hits in the opener, but the Mustangs struggled to string anything together against South starter Cade Sterrett. Central stranded nine runners, including six in scoring position, with Sterrett working into the sixth to earn the win.
Kickhaefer gave the Mustangs a strong pitching performance as well in Game 2. He had seven strikeouts, got seven ground-ball outs and four pop flies on the infield in his six-hit, complete game effort.
“The defense made plays and (catcher) Ryan Dix called a great game,” Kickhaefer said. “We were on the same page the whole game.”
“I didn’t want (Kickhaefer) to go the last inning but he just insisted on it,” Kolzow said. “He’s smart enough and knows how far he can go.”
Central (4-2) had six hits in the second contest, but also took advantage of six walks, a hit batter, three wild pitches and four South errors. The Mustangs only RBIs in the game were a two-out single from Ethan Speer in the first inning, and a bases-loaded walk for Ben Driver in the fourth.
“They asked if they could have a meeting by themselves between games before we talked to them,” Kolzow said. “That’s a good bunch of kids and they showed some leadership. They felt we were better than how we played in the first game.”
“We felt like if we played clean in the second game we had a chance,” Meis said. “With the arms both teams had going in Game 2, it was going to be a low-scoring game.
“We were the team that blinked. Seven free passes and the errors … you can’t do that.”
A two-out double from Lundgrin and an RBI single for Cason Long got South tied 2-all in the third. Central broke the tie with a two-run fourth, when they sent eight men to the plate but the only hit was an infield single for Luke Beatty.