Thursday night’s matchup between the Dodge City Red Demons and Wichita East Blue Aces pitted two squads playing some of their best baseball of the season, with the Aces ranked in the top five in 6A, and the Demons were winners of eight of their last nine games. Plus, add in the fact the Demons knocked Wichita East out of the playoffs a season ago and you had a recipe ripe for intrigue in Wichita.


Thursday night’s matchup between the Dodge City Red Demons and Wichita East Blue Aces pitted two squads playing some of their best baseball of the season, with the Aces ranked in the top five in 6A, and the Demons were winners of eight of their last nine games. Plus, add in the fact the Demons knocked Wichita East out of the playoffs a season ago and you had a recipe ripe for intrigue in Wichita.
     Both contests were back and forth title bouts worthy of a State championship series, but both games ended in heartbreak for the Demons as the Aces won each ball game with walk-off singles to snap Dodge City’s winning streak, capturing the double-header with 6-5 and 10-9 wins.
     “We have got to improve our mental toughness and our ability to close games out,” said head coach Daniel Rogers. “The difference between average teams and good teams are the ones that are mentally tough, are the ones that are able to close ball games out when you have a one run lead. Right now, we’re just an average team because we can’t close out wins.”
     In game one, starting pitcher Andrew Balderaz was once again masterful for the Demons, tossing a complete game while only allowing three earned runs. Dodge City jumped out to the early lead in the second inning, scoring two runs. But, East answered right back with three of their own to go up by one.
     The Aces tacked on another run in the third inning, but the Demons knotted the game up at 4-4 with a two-run fourth. By the end of the sixth frame, Dodge City and East remained tied at five with the seventh and final inning looming large in front of them.
     The Demons missed a golden opportunity to steal the lead from the Aces, as they stranded two runners on base in the top of the inning, leaving the door open for East to escape with a win.
     Eventually, the Aces put runners in scoring position against Balderaz, as they capitalized with a single to plate the winning run. That loss ended the Demons’ six-game winning streak, but there was still confidence that they could take the finale.
     Dylan Roy went 2-for-4 in the opener with a triple and a double and 3 RBIs.
     Dodge City took an early 1-0 lead, but Wichita East blew the game open after that, as they jumped all over Dodge City pitching to give them an 8-1 advantage at the end of the third inning. But that is when the Demons began their miracle comeback.
     They picked up one run in the fourth to cut the deficit to just six runs, and then exploded in the fifth inning for six runs to give them the 9-8 lead going into the final couple of innings. Taylor Murphy came on in the sixth to close things down for the Demons, as he retired the Aces in the sixth.
     Then the seventh inning happened.
     After recording the first two outs, the Demons walked two batters to put the tying run on second base. A ground ball up the third base line caused an error, as East tied the game up at 9-9 with two outs still on the board. Then, lightning struck twice, as the Aces picked up another game-winning single to send the Demons home shocked and disappointed.
     In the finale, Murphy went 2-for-4 with a double, Jordan Doan was 3-for-5 with two doubles and a run batted in. Collin Gifford went four innings, allowing three earned runs, while striking out three.
     Despite the losses, the Demons will go into Tuesday’s battle with Western Athletic Conference rival Great Bend with an unblemished league mark. Battles between Dodge and the Panthers have become the norm over the past couple of years.
     “Those games are huge, anytime we play Great Bend, it’s always a battle,” Rogers said. “We’ve developed a pretty good relationship with them in baseball the past couple of seasons, so I know it’s going to be intense. I’m interested to see if we can bounce back after the games today.”
     That double-header with the Panthers will begin at 4 p.m. at Demon Field with the second contest scheduled to go 20 minutes after the conclusion of the first.