MVHS weathers tough stretch, earns split with rival Lansing
Even as the Mill Valley baseball team was piling up victories early in the season, Jaguars coach Jeff Strickland maintained that the toughest part of the regular season slate remained at the end.
Sure enough, the road has grown rougher during the past two weeks. After an 11-0 start, the Jaguars have dropped four of their last six games. After splitting a doubleheader with Bonner Springs on April 20, they crushed Ottawa 14-0 on April 22. Then they were swept by Piper, 2-1 and 9-0, on Thursday.
Mill Valley returned to the field Monday at Lansing and earned a split, taking a 3-2 decision in game one before falling 8-7 in the nightcap.
MVHS is now 13-4. Despite the recent losses, Strickland said he isn’t worried.
“Right now we’re in the heart of our conference schedule with some of our toughest competition,” Strickland said. “Right now we’re not quite where we want to be, but with the exception of the second game against Piper we’ve been playing good baseball. Our defense has been solid all year with the exception of that game.”
The doubleheader against Lansing marked the first time the squads have met since facing off at the state tournament last year. Both of Monday’s games went down to the wire, and Strickland said the Jaguars played well in both games.
“Quite frankly, we really felt like we should’ve won both of them,” he said. “We just didn’t, and Lansing’s a heck of a good team. They came back and they were able to get us.”
Mill Valley took charge of game one early. Wade Hanna led off with a walk, and then Alex Wilson belted a two-run homer.
A stellar pitching performance by Greg Mason kept Lansing off the board until the bottom of the fifth inning when Lansing tied the game.
The Jaguars reclaimed the lead with a run in the top of the sixth. Then Mark Biesma entered in relief and shut the Lions down.
“Mark pitched as well as he has since the Shawnee Mission East game (in the season-opener),” Strickland said. “I was really proud of him, and our defense was really good, too.”
Mill Valley received a strong pitching performance from L.J. Hatch in game two, and the Jaguars built a 6-3 lead early.
“We led most of the game, and that’s why it was frustrating,” Strickland said, explaining that a mid-game lull kept the Jaguars from putting the game away early.
Lansing scored five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and surged to an 8-6 lead. The Jaguars scored once in the sixth but were unable to tie the game.
“The message I relayed to the kids was that a lot of kids did a lot of good things, but it goes beyond that,” he said. “If you want to be a championship team — and I believe we’re a championship caliber team — then you have got to put it all together. It has to be a consistent effort for seven innings.”
MVHS will try to put together seven solid innings during each of its final regular-season games. The Jaguars play at 4 p.m. Thursday at home against Bishop Ward and then play a 3 p.m. Tuesday doubleheader at Basehor-Linwood.