By Earl Watt
Yes, a golden opportunity slipped away from the Bee Jays twice in Wellington, but it is not because they were playing a highly superior baseball team.
The Bee Jays have slipped into a defensive coma as of late, and it is costing wins.
Liberal handed the Wellington Heat their first loss of the season Friday, and had a chance to do it again Saturday before Wellington was able to score the winning run in the bottom of the ninth for a 2-1 win.
After two Bee Jay errors allowed the Heat to take a 7-1 lead in the third inning, the Bee jays fought back to take an 8-7 lead in the eighth.
But three Bee Jay errors allowed the Heat to score twice and claim a 9-8 win over Liberal.
Losing is one thing, giving a game away is another.
Think of it as a game of pool. The goal is to save the 8-ball for last and then sink it for the win.
Or, the other guy can sink the 8-ball on accident and lose.
This weekend had more of that feel to it.
This is such a turn form the way the team started the season.
Errors are always a part of summer ball, and for the first few games of the year, the Bee Jays were playing virtually error free baseball.
But the law of averages is a punishing reality, and the Bee Jays have more than made up for the stellar play early with some shoddy work in the field, especially the past week.
Liberal isn’t committing one or two errors. It’s more like five or six in a game.
And still, the Bee Jays lost back-to-back games to the Heat by only one run each time.
That’s what hurts.
When your pitchers do what they need to do, and your hitters do what they need to do, but you give extra outs in the field, the rest doesn’t really matter.
That’s the doom and gloom. Here’s the good news:
Liberal is in control of its own errors.
If the Bee Jays can clean up the play in the field and continue to get the work on the mound, they can be very competitive.
Have they dug too deep of a hole at five games under .500 in the league?
Absolutely not, not when you just played the top team in the league to three straight one-run games.
Winning is definitely within reach for this highly talented team.
And they’ve already played the top two teams on the road. Wellington and Derby will have to make the long trip to Liberal for two three-game series, and that should favor the Bee Jays.
Had the Bee Jays been blown out in a couple of those games in Wellington, it might have painted a different picture.
But they weren’t.
That means anything can happen in the final 19 games of the conference season.
I said it at the beginning of the season, the Jayhawk League is the best in the nation for a reason. Top to bottom you will get the best against the best every night.
That is a blessing and a curse. These players will get better by being here. But they will suffer some losses along the way.
Only two teams in the conference have a winning record, and the Hays Larks are .500. But that also means anyone can make a move toward the top, including Liberal.