Blue Springs High School baseball coach Tim McElligott hopes all his Wildcats lost was a 6-4 Metro Leadoff Tournament game.
That’s because a dream turned into a nightmare for Blue Springs senior pitcher Trey Ziegenbein, who was unable to complete two innings Monday afternoon against host Liberty North, as his hopes of returning from Tommy John surgery took what McElligott hopes is a minor detour and not a major roadblock.
“He just wasn’t Trey,” McElligott said after the Wildcats finished 1-3 in pool play in the season-opening tournament. “He didn’t have his velocity or his control. He was only throwing 50 pitches no matter what, and we got him out after 4-2. He said he didn’t feel the same pain he felt when he tore (his ulnar collateral ligament) last year, but he felt something – he felt a twinge. He’s going to get checked out and we’re all praying for him.
“This is a kid who worked so hard to come back. We need him as a player, but we need him even more as an individual. It just makes me sick to think something might be wrong, but I’m not going to speculate. We’ll see how he feels and what the doctor says when he goes to get checked out.”
Ziegenbein was plagued by two first inning errors that led to the Eagles’ first run. He walked a batter and hit two more in the second before Nick Brandner came in and pitched out of a one-out, bases loaded jam, allowing just one run to score.
But a four-run third inning, that was helped along by another costly Blue Springs error, paved the way for the Eagles, despite a three-run seventh inning that nearly saw the Wildcats come back and knot the score as Doug Wood pitched out of a two-out, bases loaded jam to save the win for starter James Perry.
“We made it exciting, and I know the kids are down about starting 1-3 and Trey, but like I told them, we have 31 more games to play,” McElligott said. “We have the rest of the season ahead and we’re going to be fine. Every game we’ve played, we’ve seen our opponent’s No. 1 starter, and it’s a tournament – the big games are still on our schedule.”
Garrett McGowan’s RBI single was the only offense the Wildcats could muster over the first five innings, but they exploded for three runs in the bottom of the seventh as Anthony Gunn singled and Rey Paniagua walked.
Chris Liggett followed with a single to load the bases. With one out, Jake Lufft hit an infield single that was thrown away at first base, allowing two runs to score. McGowan then collected his second RBI single of the game, and Caleb Marquez ripped the glove off the Eagles first baseman for another hit to load the bases.
But Wood pitched out of the jam with a soft fly ball to center field to end the game.
“We know we can hit, and we know we have good pitching,” said Lufft, who had two singles and two walks. “We’re going to start winning some games. I didn’t see any fire in our dugout until the seventh – that’s when everyone started yelling and getting into the game and it got everyone fired up.
“I think if we show we want to win by showing it when our guys are batting, we’ll turn things around.”
The Wildcats fell 3-2 to Rockhurst on Saturday when the Hawklets hit a home run in the top of the seventh off Liggett to break the 2-2 deadlock.
Marquez (double), Ziegenbein and Peyton Smith each had two hits to lead the Wildcats against Rockhurst.
“Lufft did a great job scattering two runs and Liggett made one mistake,” McElligott said of Saturday’s loss. “Pitching was good again today. We left 13 runners on base. We have to do a better job executing and moving runners. We had chances to blow the game open and couldn't get it done.”
The Wildcats face Kearney at 3:15 p.m. today in a consolation game at Liberty North High School.