The Junction City Blues dropped a pair of games Saturday evening at Rathert Stadium to the visiting Salina Falcons, 14-9 and 5-3, to move to 7-5 on the season.
The games was the third time the teams squared off this week as the shortened season reaches the midway point.
Junction City got up early on the Falcons, 8-0, after two innings played with six solid hits and heads up base running.
A three run inning for the Falcons was followed with an eight run inning allowing the visitors to take the lead.
“I thought we did some good things early in the game,” coach Pat Stivers said. “But then again, it's just our lack of focus and what we do at times is really frustrating as far as giving yourself a chance to win a ballgame. When you're up 8-0 and then you go have an ending where guys don't know how many outs there are, the guys don't know what situations are — absolutely something that we've been working on, and harp on and then to come out and give up eight runs. And basically, just make silly plays, because we're not focusing on understanding of what's going on in the ball game.”
Confusion on how many outs were in the inning and whether to lay a tag on a runner or not allowed Salina to quickly run the board on the Blues.
Pitching was strong all night for Junction City with Justin Welch getting the start in game one. He went three innings and allowed three runs and striking out one.
As Welch was pitching, Stivers and his assistants kept reminding him to keep his rhythm on the mound — which he did.
“We just try to get them going and if your rhythms good it's, it's good for all facets on defense,” Stivers said. “Our defense gets more involved and it's just a quicker tempo. It's kind of what we've been talking a lot to our pitcher about — start with a good tempo and your defense is gonna play better behind you.”
Levi Mehl came in relief in the fourth inning and went 1/3 of the inning before Russell Wilkey came in to close out the game.
The two combined for the remaining 11 runs over three innings.
Bats were hot at the beginning of the game for the Blues with players combining for six hits in the first two innings, but the team only added three hits in the remaining four innings with several walks added into the mix.
The second game started off slow as neither team put any runs on the board through two innings played.
The third inning was the key inning for the Falcons as they placed four runs on three hits and an error to strike first.
Junction City held the early advance only allowing one more run in the top of the seventh as they came up to bat their final turn.
Puma Page put the first run on the board for the Blues after reaching first on a one-out single to left field. A stolen base moved him to second while Aiden Field was at bat.
Field and Ky’rell Taylor would both walk to load the bases for Wilkey.
Wilkey hit a hard grounder to the third baseman who stepped on his bag as Page scored forcing an out with Field just steps away.
Taylor and Wilkey would both be safe of base. Both would score the final two runs of the inning and game as the Blues left three runners on the base path when the final out was called on a watched third strike.
“A positive note, we put ourselves in a position to win a baseball game,” Stivers said. “But, we just didn't get that key hit to score the tying runner and gives us a chance to win the ballgame.”
With the loss the Blues prepare for game on the road today in Topeka and will play host to five teams at the Junction City Tournament this weekend at Rathert Stadium.
“It'll be fun,” Stivers said of the week ahead. “A lot of these teams were here at our tournament last year. So, yeah, it’ll be nice.”