Hornets shine too bright for Patriots

By Bill Althaus
Truman High School's Brady Ruks-Bond gets congratulations after his home run Wednesday in the Patriots' 9-7 loss to North Kansas City.

Diamonds Cooper is a gem.

The North Kansas City centerfielder kept four Truman runs off the scoreboard with two sensational catches and slugged a home run to pace the Hornets' 9-7 non-conference win Wednesday afternoon at Truman High School.

"He's a great player," Truman baseball coach Corey Lathrom said, after his team fell to 5-3. "He leads off with that homer, and you're never going to see better catches than he made out there today, especially that one with the bases loaded."

With two out in the bottom of the fifth inning, Truman's Brady Ruks-Bond walked,  Bryce Greenwalt singled and Anthony Locke walked to load the bases.

Bryce Dutzel then launched a rocket to deep right-center and somehow, in an all-out, diving effort, Cooper caught it parallel to the ground.

"That pretty much saved the game for us," NKC coach Bubba Dotson said after his 7-2 team won its seventh game in a row. "He's a gamer. He made a couple of other nice catches, including that one to end the game."

Truman leadoff hitter Sam Scott hit an RBI double and was on second base with two outs when Dane Blankenship hit a soft floater to center field.

Cooper came in full force, gauged the wind and dove as the ball landed in his glove for the final out.

And one of his most athletic plays came in the third when Ruks-Bond hit a homer to center. Cooper climbed the fence and nearly got his glove on that ball.

"The wind was brutal out there today," Cooper said, "but I wasn't going to let it play mind games with me. I've played in the wind before and know how to get to balls in a windy outfield. We got a lot of timely hitting today, and we played great defense."

When asked about his leadoff homer, he grinned and said, "I saw that flag blowing hard to left field, and I got it up in the wind and it went out. That was a good way to start the game."

Northtown took a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning, but Truman chipped away with two runs in the bottom of the first.

Locke scored on a wild pitch, and Kayne Braxton hit a sacrifice fly.

The Patriots then scored three more runs in the third as Ruks-Bond and Locke hit their first career home runs for the Patriots. Braxton added a double and eventually scored on another Andrew Krueger wild pitch.

The Hornets scored two runs in the sixth and the eventual game winners by adding two in the seventh, as Truman scored solo runs in the fifth and sixth innings.

"I just told the guys we are done with mental mistakes, because four of them cost us this game," Lathrom said. "I can accept physical mistakes, but not mental mistakes, at least not at this point of the season.

"I like our team, and we're going to win a lot of games this season. We just have to cut down on our mistakes and we should be fine."