The Cass baseball team matched No. 5-ranked Kell in the hits column during Tuesday's neutral-site game at LakePoint. In fact, the Colonels had more extra-base hits than the Longhorns.
However, Cass could never get the big hit, the key hit, the hit that would drive in a run or two. Facing a team like the Longhorns, those missed opportunities add up, and it led to a 9-0 Region 7-AAAAA defeat this time.
"We're getting baserunners on, just not getting them in," Cass head coach Tim Ayers said.
The Colonels (7-14, 3-8) put two runners on in the second inning but couldn't score. In the fifth, Clay Means doubled and Karson Kelley singled with no outs. But Kell pitcher Hal Stelljes, who is committed to play at Georgia Highlands College, got a flyout and two strikeouts to escape the jam.
"I hate to always go back to it, but you're sending seven sophomores out there to face 18-year-old college commits," Ayers said. "I think the approach [is the issue]. It's the approach, because they're so young and so immature in the box that it affects them."
After Stelljes departed, Cass threatened again. Matt Shook and Sam Melton singled to put runners on the corners with one out in the sixth. Kell (18-4, 10-1) managed to get out of the inning with a 3-6-3 double play.
In the seventh, Kyle Miller singled up the middle and Bryson Markley doubled down the right-field line. With two runners in scoring position and one out, the Longhorns used another double play — this one a lineout to shortstop and throw behind the runner at second base — to end the game.
While the offense wasted some premium scoring chances, the young Cass pitching staff had some trouble finding the strike zone. Kell managed a half-dozen hits but drew nine walks — all in the first five innings.
The Longhorns put up one run in the first inning and three in the third against Colonels starter Jayden Smith. Kell added three more runs in the fourth and two more in the sixth against Trey Scott before Jordan Gani tossed a scoreless seventh.
Accentuating Ayers' point about Cass' youth, all three of those pitchers are sophomores. The belief is that giving the younger players time against the outstanding teams that litter the region will help the Colonels down the road.
"We're hoping that if we keep playing those guys, these aren't big moments for them," Ayers said. "When they've got guys at second and third with two outs, it's not like they haven't been in those situations before. Over the past four games, we haven't thrown anybody but sophomores.
"Hopefully on both ends, hitting and pitching, it will make a big difference."