Thursday provided a glimpse at the two personas the Atchison Senior A’s can have.

In Game 1, Atchison lost 5-2 to Oskaloosa – a team they swept in a doubleheader a week ago. But, in Game 2, the A’s bounced back and won easily, taking the game 10-0 in four innings.

Head Coach White said the difference between the two games was attitude.

“That’s all it was” he said. “The other team did what they needed to do in the first game to beat us, and they got it done. We didn’t do what we were supposed to do. Long talk between games, they came out and played the way they’re capable of.”

Game 1

The A’s started the first game of the twin bill well, scoring two runs in the first to give starting pitcher Hunter Ostertag a lead to work with.

Noah Baniewicz singled and Ostertag helped himself by reaching on a bunt. After Baniewicz was cut down at third on a sacrifice bunt attempt by Marcus Denton, Ostertag and Denton came around to score on Oskaloosa errors.

Those would be Atchison’s only runs of the game, though.

The River Bandits took advantage of Ostertag in the third, as the A’s pitcher battled pitch location. Five walks and three singles resulted in four runs and Oskaloosa held a 4-2 lead after three.

The Bandits added another in the fifth to push their lead to 5-2.

Atchison had an opportunity to cut into the lead in the bottom of the fifth, but the threat fizzled out. Jaden Lee led off the inning with a walk and Baniewicz singled. Lee moved to third on the hit and then Baniewicz stole second base. With runners on second and third and no outs, the A’s struck out twice and then lined out to the pitcher to end the inning.

It was the last offensive threat of the game for Atchison as the Bandits went on to win 5-2.

“Baseball is a mental game,” White said. “If you come to the ballpark and you’re not ready, you get beat.”

Ostertag pitched four innings, giving up four runs and striking out four batters. Hunter Wahwahsuck pitched the final three innings. He struck out four and gave up one run.

Game 2

After a lengthy discussion following the first game, the A’s came out ready to roll in Game 2.

In the bottom of the first, Adam Smith reached on an error and advanced to third on a double by Denton. Baniewicz followed with another double to score both runners, then scored later in the inning on a ground out by Logan Wahwahsuck.

Atchison did some damage in the second inning. Consecutive singles by Augie Scholz, Kevin Scott and Colten Kocour opened the inning, with Kocour’s bringing Scholz home.

Smith was hit by a pitch and Scott scored on a wild pitch. Baniewicz walked and Kocour scored after Oskaloosa misplayed Hunter Wahwahsuck’s ground ball. Smith and Baniewicz both scored on wild pitches to give the A’s an 8-0 lead after two innings.

Smith worked around some trouble on the mound. He pitched all four innings and didn’t allow a run, but faced runners in scoring position in three of the four innings.

In the first, the Bandits had runners on second and third with no outs. Logan Wahwahsuck made a diving catch in left field and the Oskaloosa runner on third advanced home. But, after an appeal by Atchison, the runner was called out for leaving third base before the catch was made. Smith finished the inning with a strikeout to keep the Bandits off the board.

Back-to-back walks leading off the second gave Oskaloosa another chance to score, but Smith struck out the next two batters to squelch the rally. A line out to center ended matters.

With an 8-0 lead in the third, Smith worked a perfect third inning. The A’s added a run in the bottom of the frame when Denton drove in Scott with a double.

Oskaloosa put runners on second and third with one out in the fourth inning, but again Smith danced out of trouble, striking out the final two batters. He finished with seven strikeouts and no hits allowed in four innings, but did give up five walks.

The game came to an end in the bottom of the fourth. Logan Wahwahsuck walked and Oskaloosa made multiple throwing errors on Ostertag’s bunt, allowing Wahwahsuck to score from first and end the game by run rule.

White said the difference between the games came down to attitude and focus.

“We had a long talk between games, a couple players took over and talked to their teammates and that’s how it should be,” he said.

Another aspect the A’s had to deal with Thursday night – and all season – was an ever-changing roster. With players having different commitments that sometimes pull them away from the A’s, White has had to balance using different players in different roles.

“It’s tough,” he said. “It’s tough for the coach and it’s tough for the players.”

Still, the A’s have a solid chance to advance through their zone tournament and into the state tournament. Atchison is matched with Ottawa, Leavenworth and Oskaloosa, with the top-two teams advancing to state.

“We’ve played all three teams,” White said. “We know that we’re going to have a great chance. I’m very confident in our chances and we’ll see what happens.”

Ottawa swept Atchison in a doubleheader earlier this season, but the 11-11 A’s are a perfect 4-0 against Leavenworth and are 3-1 against Oskaloosa following Thursday’s games. The zone tournament begins the week of July 18.

Before that, though, the A’s will play Silver Lake on Sunday, July 10 and Sabetha on Thursday, July 14. Both doubleheaders are at home.

Adam Gardner can be reached at adam.gardner@npgco.com.

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