After watching his team limp down the season’s home stretch, Midwest Athletics manager Will Rogers is now limping along with them.
Rogers took a line drive just below his left knee while standing in the third base box during a game July 9. Three days later, he still had a big knot to show for it.
“It was hit so hard and went so quick I didn’t have time to move,” Rogers said. “I iced it, then I iced it again and it’s not going down. It looks like I have two knees.”
Rogers’ injury came while the A’s were in the throes of a 2-5 stretch that started after the Mid-Plains League’s all-star break the week before. That skid didn’t knock them out of first place in the East Division, but it did cost them the No. 1 overall seed in the upcoming playoffs.
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Midwest went into its regular-season finale July 12 19-9 and assured of first place in the East Division. They will begin the playoffs against Junction City, the No. 2 seed in the West, in a three-game series starting July 14 on the A’s home field at Belton High School.
Two of the losses during the A’s skid came against Junction City, both by identical 6-3 scores. It also includes a 10-3 loss to the Topeka Golden Giants, who now have the No. 1 overall seed.
“I’m concerned about our team focus,” Rogers said. “I’m not as concerned about the record because of extenuating circumstances of missing guys. Everybody took vacation at the same time after the all-star break.”
That helps Rogers see that last week as sort of an aberration, like that screamer off his leg. Several regular starters, including the entire outfield, had other commitments that kept them from playing most of the week.
“There were four kids who said we’re not going to be here - mom scheduled this or dad scheduled that,” Rogers said. “And I’m thinking, what the … it’s baseball season. It is what it is.”
Rogers also didn’t have his front-line starting pitchers at his disposal, but that was by design. He wanted his top three starters - Alex Knight, Jeremy Husband and Lee’s Summit High graduate Dalen Blair – to rest up their arms before the playoffs.
Blair, a league-best 5-0 with a 2.73 ERA, still managed to throw seven shutout innings in the A’s 8-0 win over the Kansas City Knights and earn the league’s co-pitcher of the week honors. But more typical was the loss to Topeka, which included 10 walks and five hit batters.
“We limited them all to a minimal amount of pitches,” Rogers said. “To be honest, they did their jobs. But the secondary kids who haven’t pitched as much just didn’t throw strikes and I don’t know why because we’ve been giving them regular bullpen sessions.”
If the A’s get past Junction City this weekend, they will advance to the best-of-three Cowdin Cup championship series July 19-21. Junction City beat the A’s in three games in last year’s semifinals.
The A’s played for the Cowdin Cup two years ago, and Rogers believes they can advance again – if they can put last week behind them.
“I want the guys to mentally flush it, but I also want them to remember hey, we’re not invulnerable,” Rogers said. “We’ve got to bring the best that we have every time we appear in a game.”