In a season that had everything going right, the way it ended for the Seneca Indians on Wednesday just didn’t match the plot.
In the Class 4 Sectional game against Warrensburg, the Indians were a mere two outs away from advancing, but their 5-3 lead in the top of the seventh inning wouldn’t hold and they went on to lose 8-5 in 10 innings.
“They made the plays in the end that we didn’t,” Indians coach Chris Yust said. “We walked too many guys today in key situations and gave them too many opportunities that we shouldn’t have.”
As one player commented as he ran off the field in the late innings, it felt like the game “went fast.” Indeed, it was an abrupt end to a season that felt like it had plenty of life left for the Indians.
Seneca had chances — many of them — but just couldn’t seem to find the right ingredient to put it away. The Indians loaded the bases in each of the third, sixth and eighth innings, and failed to score each time. They had the bases sacked with the winning run at third with one out in the eighth, but the inning ended with back-to-back strikeouts.
In another close call, Payton Rawlins came inches away from hitting his second home run of the game in the sixth inning with the Indians ahead 5-3. Rawlins’ two-run shot in the fifth inning broke a 3-3 tie, and in the sixth he worked a full-count, fouled off a handful of pitches, and then hooked a booming drive to left. After a bat flip and breaking into his home run trot, however, the ball took a detour and hooked inches to the left of the foul pole.
Rawlins walked on the next pitch to load the bases, but the Indians failed to score against reliever Jordan Carr.
“We had our opportunities all day to put it away,” Yust said. “You’ve got to put a good team away or this is going to happen.”
Indians starter Colton Webber opened the seventh by inducing a fly ball to right for the first out, but followed it up with successive walks to put runners at first and second with no outs. Coach Chris Yust then summoned Dalan Merriman to the mound, but he hit a batter to load the bases and walked in a run before a sacrifice fly by Kye Denker tied it 5-5.
The Tigers (14-7) remained quiet against Merriman until the 10th, when Chase Leavy and Matt Zembroski opened the inning with singles to put runners at first and second. The Indians intentionally walked the next batter to give them a force at any base, but Nico Codemo hit a sac fly to make it 6-5 and a walk and another single by Denker broke it open.
Page 2 of 2 - “There’s so many different scenarios tonight, little things that would have put us over the top and win us the ballgame and we didn’t do it,” Yust added. “It was a lot of little mistakes that cost us tonight — stuff that we’ve been doing all year that we didn’t do tonight.
“That’s the way baseball goes.”
At the plate, Merriman, a junior, had himself a day, going 5-for-6 with a home run, a double and two RBIs. His booming, two-run homer in the fourth cut the Tigers’ early lead to 3-2.
Rawlins also had two RBIs and scored a run, while Kyler Ng and Cade Cornett both had two hits. Cole Lankford and Braden Larson had a hit and scored a run each.
The Indians finished the season 20-5 while winning conference and district titles along the way.
“It’s a great year,” Yust said. “We tied the record for wins in a year. It’s been a fun group to coach. A lot of seniors out here and I’m going to miss them. They’re easy to coach — they work hard every day and have fun. It makes it fun for us as coaches.”