Kansas Cannons baseball end skid with win over Liberal Bee Jay's
AUGUSTA, Kansas—Tuesday’s frustration turned into Wednesday’s elation, as the Kansas Cannons made two second-inning runs stand up and held on for a 2-1 victory over the Liberal Bee Jays in a matchup of division-leading teams at Rodney Wheeler Stadium.
The Cannons (18-15, 16-9 league) improved their KCBL Walter Johnson Division lead to 1½ games over the idle Park City Rangers. Liberal, which has already clinched the KCBL’s Jayhawk Division, fell for only the fifth time in 24 games.
Tuesday’s loss at the Wichita Dirtbags left a sour taste in the Cannons’ mouths, but a nice thing about summer baseball is that there isn’t much time to celebrate a victory or stew over a loss, with games less than 24 hours apart.
Many things went right for the Cannons on Wednesday. They jumped to a 2-0 lead in the second inning.
Designated hitter Jordan Ellison led off with a sharp single to left and came home on Myles Beale’s double to the right-center field wall. Beale took third in on Carsen Pracht’s groundout and scored on Carson Shively’s fly to center.
The challenge then was turned over to the pitching staff. Aaron Bechtel went the first four innings, giving up just two hits and the lone Liberal run. He struck out five, hit a batter but didn’t walk anyone.
Evan Dean kept Liberal from scoring in the fifth and sixth, then Ellison entered in the seventh and retired nine of the 11 hitters he faced, including a 1-2-3 ninth.
The Cannons had a scare in the eighth inning when right fielder Cale Blasi was struck in the neck by a ball he fouled off. He was on the ground for about 10 minutes and eventually left the game.
“He fouled one off that caught him in the throat,” coach Dusty Gray said afterward. “He’s a little sore right now, but Cale’s a tough kid and was laughing and joking (in the dugout) at the end of the game.”
Gray said Blasi probably wouldn’t play in Thursday’s home game against the Kansas Curve but could play Friday in a home game against the Wellington Heat.
“I’m going to give him (Thursday) off, but make sure he’s ready for Friday,” Gray said. “He’s a tough kid, but (he had to be) pretty tough just to get up after that one.”
Leadoff hitter Paul Schoenfeld – a 2021 graduate of Bishop Carroll High School – paced the attack with three of the Cannons’ seven hits. He singled in the first and third innings, doubled in the fifth and walked in the eighth.
“I felt good (Wednesday night), seeing the ball well and put a good stroke on (them),” he said afterward. “I think we played our ball finally (and) showed what we can do.”
In addition to his second-inning RBI double, Beale singled in the sixth. Catcher Jared Hanks also singled in the second but was left stranded.
Despite the close victory, Gray was very pleased afterward – especially after Tuesday’s frustrating loss.
“We got back on track a little bit (Wednesday),” Gray said. “Those are the games you want to play. They were fun games to be involved with. The guys did good (Wednesday night). The pitchers did good; the hitters did what they were supposed to do.
“We played with confidence.”
The Cannons only committed one error, which did not lead to a run. Schoenfeld’s three-hit game also pleased his coach.
“We played pretty clean ball (Wednesday night),” Gray said. “These are fun games to be a part of. Paul was hot. We like him there (leading off), and he usually turns a lot of singles into doubles.”
Ellison’s lights-out three-inning save also had Gray smiling.
“He shut the door, just like we expect,” Gray said. “He was spot on, and Aaron (Bechtel) was spot on with the start.”
The Cannons took both games at home against Liberal, each by a single run. The two teams will end the regular season at Liberal on July 28.
As is the nature of summer baseball, the Cannons will not have long to savor this victory, with the rematch against the Curve on Thursday night. The teams only made it through three innings in an earlier matchup June 11 before rain washed out the game with the Cannons leading, 4-1.
“We let one slip away (Tuesday night) that we should have held on to,” Gray said. “But we came back (Wednesday night) and took care of business. It’s a good win right there.”