Dodge City scores four in the eighth inning to stun Cannons

Lionel Tipton
The Cannons on a mound visit

AUGUSTA, Kansas—At a time when players are just getting acquainted with one another, the Kansas Cannons were dealt a harsh dose of baseball reality Saturday night.

Riding high after their second victory of the young season Friday, a 16-4 run-rule rout of the Denver Cougars, the Cannons found themselves in a battle with the Dodge City A’s.

Augusta High product Clay Wesbrooks, now of Pittsburg State, shut down Dodge on six hits through six innings. His mates even were able to scratch out a run in the fifth without benefit of a hit for a 1-0 lead, then added two more in the seventh for a 3-0 advantage.

But reliever Cole Luebbert suffered some bad luck when center fielder Paul Schoenfeld stumbled in pursuit of Carlos Arellano’s fly ball, which turned into a triple and capped a four-run eighth for the A’s, who held on for a 6-3 victory.

The loss dropped the Cannons to 2-3, but coach Dusty Gray took solace in the fact that games in summer leagues – victories or defeats – have a very short shelf life, thanks to the rapid-fire scheduling.

“We’ll kind of think about this one a little bit, so they can make some corrections, make some adjustments for themselves, then let it go and we’ll turn around and get back at it (Sunday),” Gray said.

Sure enough, just as the Cannons couldn’t celebrate too much after Friday night, they likewise won’t have long to dwell on Saturday night. The Cannons will travel to West Side Field in Wichita on Sunday for a game against the Dirtbags – the Cannons’ league opener.

“Just the stumble cost us a little bit on this one,” Gray said. “We’ll come back (Sunday) and prove again.

“That’s the greatest thing about baseball – you usually have the next day.”

Luebbert inducing Arellano to lift a fly ball had Gray optimistic.

“I thought, ‘Oh, man, we were out of it,’” Gray said. “That just happens, and sometimes things break your way, and sometimes they don’t.”

Despite the outcome, there were some positives for the Cannons: Wesbrooks turned in a sharp outing; leadoff hitter Cale Blasi drove in all three runs with a sacrifice fly and a double; shortstop Carson Pracht had three of the Cannons’ eight hits; and the team played error-free ball.

“We’ve got to get a little better with the bats,” Gray said. “But it’ll come around.”

Players reported just last Tuesday and began playing games a day later, Gray said. So the team is still trying to get accustomed to playing with each other, he said.

“Right now, we’re just trying to see what everybody’s got, where everybody’s comfortable, what they like to see, what they like to do, what they’re used to seeing,” Gray said. 

Asked whether the players needed to wear nametags, Gray laughed.

“I let them know they’d be a point at first, then they’d be a number, and then I’d have their name down,” he said. 

Probably the most familiar player to Gray is his son Austin, a left-handed pitcher who just graduated from Augusta High. Austin Gray relieved Luebbert in the eighth inning and got the final out, then encountered trouble in the ninth, surrendering a two-run double to Doyle Kane.

“He’ll get a little wound up and kind of lose mechanics for a little bit,” Dusty Gray said. “But once he gets back into the mechanics and stays in them, he’s usually in there for us.”

It’s a tall order for a high school graduate to face college hitters, Dusty Gray said. 

“A high school grad going against these guys takes some poise,” he said. “It takes some poise to even come out and compete.”