It only took one swing of the bat to turn the Derby Twins’ two-run lead into a one-run loss to the Kansas Cannons in their season-opener at Panther Stadium this past Saturday night.
The Twins were nursing a 2-0 lead when a grand slam helped the Cannons notch six runs in the top of the sixth inning on their way to a 7-6 win.
“We had some first-game jitters,” Derby coach Billy Hall said. “We made a few bad, errant throws that shouldn’t have been made and it cost us, but that’s to be expected for the first game.”
Designated hitter Ruben Marrero hit in the Twins’ first run of the season with a sacrifice grounder to second base to score Travis Becherer. The Twins doubled their lead in the second inning when Zach Stucky singled to center field to score Ethan Loosen.
Derby had the opportunity to add another run in the third inning when Keelin Rasch’s hit found the gap between center-and left-field that brought Marrero around the bases, but he was thrown out at home plate.
Derby starting pitcher Jess Amedee had a steady performance on the mound going into the top of the fourth inning. After only giving up one hit in the first three innings, the right-hander quickly found himself in trouble in the top of the fourth.
The Cannons led off the inning with three consecutive singles to load the bases. On the Cannons’ next at-bat, Corey Cowan drilled a single that bounced off second base and into the outfield tying the game at 2-2.
Another single loaded the bases again and the Cannons turned it into four more runs with a grand slam over the right-field fence by John Bonebrake.
“You cannot leave a ball up in this park. In high school you can get away with it, but with college hitters a pop fly in a college park could be gone here,” Hall said.
“He was throwing the ball well. For the first 3-1/2 innings he was lights out,” Hall said. “For whatever reason, he just started elevating the ball and leaving it out over the plate. You have to be able to pitch the corners and down in the (strike) zone.”
Derby tried to chip away at the Cannons’ 6-2 lead with another run in the bottom of the fourth inning. After a single by Albert DelGaicco to lead off the inning, Stucky picked up his second RBI of the game with a double to center field.
The hit also moved Kelly Norris-Jones to third base after a walk, but he was stranded on third with a Chuck Duarte strikeout to end the inning.
With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Derby cut the Cannons’ lead to 6-4. DelGaicco dribbled a shot to third base and scored Marrero on a Cannons’ wild throw.
Just as it did in the top of the fifth, Derby’s defense ended the sixth with a double play to keep the Cannons’ lead at 6-4. Derby made it 6-5 in the bottom of the sixth with a sacrifice fly to left field by Jonathan Rodriquez that scored Becherer from third base.
A stand-up double by Marrero on the Twins’ next at-bat tied the game at 6-6.
With Kyle Kennett on the mound for Derby, the Cannons worked runners around the bases with an infield single, a bunt and a walk in the top of the seventh. With one out, the Cannons took a 7-6 lead on a fielder’s choice.
Bret Dahlson came in to pitch for Derby in the top of the eighth and retired three straight batters on two strikeouts and an infielder groundout. After giving up a single in the top of ninth, Dahlson retired three consecutive again to keep the Cannons’ lead at 7-6.
The Twins couldn’t close the gap in the bottom of the ninth. Norris-Jones hit one deep to the center-field wall for Derby’s second out, and Stucky ended the game on a strike out.
The Twins’ season started a day late after their first game against Park City was cancelled because of rain. Some of the players didn’t reach Derby until Thursday and Friday and had little time to get adjusted before the season started. Hall said that’s normal for summer ball.
Derby struggled through a 9-3 loss to El Dorado on Sunday night. The Twins continued through a five-game stretch with games against Denver (Monday), Haysville (Tuesday) and El Dorado (Wednesday). Derby is off on Thursday before hosting a three-game series against Dodge City starting on Friday.