Oriole baseball sweeps El Dorado

Lionel Tipton

EL DORADO, Kansas—Both El Dorado and Augusta qualified for the 2020 Class 4A state football playoffs.

But Thursday night, many of those Orioles and Wildcats exchanged their football helmets for batting helmets in an AVCTL Division III doubleheader at McDonald Stadium.

Unlike in football, when El Dorado upended the Orioles (5-3) on their home field, 4A's eighth-ranked team, Augusta, used its senior-laden squad to sweep the Wildcats, 14-5 and 7-5.

One of the biggest contributions came from a senior on Augusta’s basketball team, which also went to state. Xander Roberts had three hits and scored three runs in the twin bill.

But his biggest contribution came on the mound, where he picked up the victory in the opener. And, when Orioles coach Garan Qualls needed him in the nightcap, he relieved and quashed an El Dorado rally in the fifth inning, then shut down the Wildcats the rest of the way to save the victory for fellow senior Nick Taylor.

Augusta’s starring roles were plentiful.

Senior Jett Hand, the football team’s quarterback and a deadly basketball shooter to boot, went 2 for 4 in the opener and had four runs scored. In the nightcap, he walked twice and was hit by a pitch and scored one run. Football running back and basketball guard Ryan Andrews, another senior, had two hits and a sacrifice fly in the opener, then knocked in two runs in the nightcap on a sacrifice fly and a double.

Basketball center and wide receiver Ely Wilcox – yes, another senior – had three hits in the opener and two more in the nightcap. 

El Dorado did find some bright spots individually, but the most telling characteristic was the Wildcats’ resilience after the lopsided opening-game loss.

They jumped on Augusta starter Kaden McDaniel, who surrendered four first-inning runs before having the leave the game seven batters in after being hit on the leg by Jalen Rice’s line drive. Senor Nick Taylor relieved and kept the Wildcats in check until the fifth, when El Dorado got its final run off Kaden Kearney. Kearney faced just two hitters, and Qualls moved Roberts back in from left field, and he shut down El Dorado the rest of the way.

Junior Miles Stringer had two hits in the opener and scored one of the Wildcats’ five runs. Junior Trip Baker tripled in Dravin Fowler in a four-run fourth, but was cut down trying to stretch it into an inside-the-park homer. 

Probably El Dorado’s best showing of the night came in the first inning of the second game. Sophomore Gannon White led off by tripling to deep right, Fowler and Baker then walked. White scored on a passed ball, and Stringer’s sacrifice fly plated the second run. Freshman Cole Rickard then tripled to deep center, scoring Jett Roberts. Rice capped the inning with his hard-hit single off McDaniel’s leg. Taylor entered and recorded the final out.

It looked for a while like the Wildcats (0-6) might be able to hold the lead, but they faced a constant offensive barrage from Augusta.  The Orioles struck for three runs in the third and fifth innings and one in the sixth to deny El Dorado.

Afterward, Qualls was pleased by his team’s effort.

“I’m very happy with the way every guy on our roster competed,” he said. “It was a total team effort.”

Qualls admitted a few butterflies opening the second game, when El Dorado got four hits in the first two innings – three of them triples by White and Rickard in the first and junior Jaydon Sundgren in the second. 

“They did a good job of putting a swing on the baseball, especially in that second game,” he said. “They competed hard, and so did we.

“We swung the bats well in Game One and Game Two. I’m really happy with the way we fought back (in the second game) being down 4-0. They punched us in the gut right off the bat, and I’m proud of the way we responded.”

Adjustments had to be made, Qualls said – especially after El Dorado’s three triples in two innings.

“Yeah, we moved (the outfielders) back a little bit,” he said.

Being able to use Xander Roberts in both games was a plus, he said. 

“We kept his pitch count down in Game One for this reason, in case he has to come back for Game Two,” Qualls said. “(Thursday night) it worked to our advantage.”

El Dorado is still searching for its first victory, but coach Adam McCormick said it’s merely a matter of producing on a consistent basis.

“We seemed to get started red-hot in Game Two, then we just felt like some momentum might get taken away,” he said. “Teams in the AVCTL are good, and we just need to find a way to battle through seven innings and not rest on that one big inning will do the job for us.

“We’ve just got to keep working. We’ve got a really young group (Fowler, Jett Roberts and Caleb Winter are the only seniors). I feel like we’re playing with confidence. We’re getting the progress that our coaching staff wants to see. We’ve just got to get over the hump and finish some games.”

The immediate bounce-back from a nine-run loss was part of the aggressive mindset that McCormick said he wants to see.

“I told the kids from Day One that I want to play aggressive,” he said. “We played aggressive; we just weren’t ‘smart-aggressive.’ It’s that learning curve that we’re still going through right now, and I just want to continue to build on this, because we had done a lot of good things.

“We just need to get over the hump.”

Augusta is idle until April 19, when it will play host to Rose Hill. El Dorado travels to Clearwater for a doubleheader on Monday. 

Augusta 14, El Dorado 5

Augusta                  104 231 3 – 14

El Dorado                000 410 0 – 5 

W – X. Roberts. L – White. HR – None.

Game 2: Augusta 7, El Dorado 5

Augusta                  003 031 0 – 7

El Dorado                400 010 0 – 5 

W – Taylor. L – Stringer. HR – None.