Jaguar baseball splits with Derby

Lionel Tipton

ANDOVER,Kansas–It was definitely a rarity for a spring sports game: A spring sport – baseball – played in winter weather.

In spite of the blustery conditions – winds were clocked from the north-northwest at 28 mph – Andover Central had managed to maintain a 2-0 lead into the top of the seventh, when visiting Derby struck for two runs after two were out and tied the score, 2-2.

The deadlock remained until the 13th, when the Panthers (6-2) pushed across five runs and handed the Jaguars their first loss of the season, 7-2.

As the temperatures dropped, and some of the small throng of bundled-up fans left for warmer places, a light rain began to fall, adding yet another complication. Ninth-ranked Andover Central (3-1), getting a strong pitching performance from Jacob Horn and Lou Blackman, blanked Derby in the nightcap, 5-0, and earned a split of the twin bill.

“You’ve got that weather, and then you have us going into the seventh (and surrendering the lead in the opener),” Jaguars coach Grant Bacon said. “So, give these guys credit, we gutted through and got a ‘W.’”

Horn went the first four innings, and Blackman came on in the fifth and closed it out.

But Blackman also provided a spark at the plate as well, going 2 for 3 and driving in two of the Jaguars’ runs. He also had a single in six at-bats in the marathon opener.

Blackman, a tall, lanky junior, said afterward that it was nice to salvage the second game after the disappointment of the opener.

“We started the first game, it was 13 innings, a three-hour game, and it was like, what, 40 degrees?” he said. “It felt good to get the split.”  

He said the Jaguars were determined to bounce back, especially because Derby is so talented.

“We knew they were a good team,” Blackman said. “They’re one of the best (Class) 6A teams in the state. They’re very solid.”

Indeed. Derby’s nightcap loss was only the second in eight games for the Panthers, whose other loss was to perennial power Bishop Carroll.

Bacon said his team was determined to get that instant revenge.

“After that first game, to bounce back and get the ‘W’ was huge,” he said. 

Bacon said he has confidence in Blackman to produce, which is why Blackman is Andover Central’s cleanup hitter.

“We have him (hitting cleanup) because we have faith when there are runners in scoring position, we know he’s going to find a way,” Bacon said. “We had to shut down (Jacob) Horn so we’d have him ready for Tuesday against (the archrival Andover) Trojans, and (Blackman) came in and ate up those innings.” 

As they had in the opener, the Jaguars opened the scoring in the second game, striking for a run in the first. Shortstop Easton Elliot led off the inning with a single, moved up on two groundouts and scored on Blackman’s single to right. But Ash worked out of trouble and struck out the side in the second. 

In the third, he struck out the side again, but sandwiched around the strikeouts were an Elliot single, a walk to Alex Ronk, and Blackman being hit by a pitch. A wild pitch allowed Elliot to come in with the Jaguars’ second run and an ever-so-small amount of added breathing room.

Blackman’s RBI single in the sixth plated Jack Bell with Andover Central’s third run, and the Jaguars closed the scoring in the sixth when Cooper Tabor led off with a single and came around to score when the Derby second baseman misplayed Elliot’s grounder, and the ball rolled all the way to the fence. Elliot got all the way to third and scored on a Bell groundout.

Derby’s best threat came in the fourth, but baserunning miscues prevented the Panthers from scoring.

Coleson Syring led off with a screaming shot down the left-field line, but was gunned down by – who else? – Blackman trying to stretch it into a double. First baseman Braden Horn followed with a double, but he would eventually be cut down on the basepaths as well. In all, Derby two singles and a double but failed to score. 

That told Bacon that it was time to change pitchers, and Blackman came in from left in the next inning.

Blackman limited the Panthers to just two hits in the next three innings and worked out of a situation with runners at first and third in the seventh to slam the door.

In the opener, Luke Westerman squeezed home the tie-breaking run in the 13th, then stifled Andover Central in the bottom of the inning to earn the victory.

Derby 7, Andover Central 2 (13)

First game

Derby 000 000 000 000 5 – 7 7 2

Andover Central 001 100 000 000 0 – 2 10 1

W – Westerman. L – Elliot. 

Andover Central 5, Derby 0

Second game

Derby 000 000 0 – 0 6 1

Andover Central 101 012 x – 7 6 1

W – J. Horn. L – Ash.