The Seward County Saints Jayhawk West Conference series against Hutchinson Sunday and Monday, showed just why the conference changed to a four game weekend series format last season. After having their series dates changed for the 5th straight weekend, the Saints opened the series with Hutchinson on Sunday afternoon at Brent Gould Field. In game one the Saints sent ace Bobby Doran to the mound and after a swift 10 pitch 1st inning, had a 0 on the board and the Saints coming to bat in the bottom half of the first frame. The Saints wasted little time in taking advantage of shaky control from Hutchinson starter and Mississippi State signee Tim Statz as the first five batters of the game reached base including RBI singles from Travis Parker and Kelby Tomlinson to open up a 2-0 lead. Neither team would get anything going for the next four innings as Doran faced the minimum through the first four innings while Statz settled down nicely as the Saints would hold just the 2-0 advantage going into the 6th inning. Hutch would threaten in the 6th as Doran plunked center fielder Drew Wilkinson but left him stranded at second base after a groundout and a fly out to right to end the inning. Luke Campbell would triple to lead off the Saints half of the 6th and wasting no time Tomlinson launched a fly ball to center for the sac fly as Campbell would tag up and score to make the Seward lead 3-0. Doran would take care of the rest, rapidly dispatching of the first place Dragons in the 7th to secure the 3-0 win for the Saints. Doran finished the game with just 89 pitches while striking out five and failing to walk a batter in his first career complete game shutout.
In game two, Seward County would again get the early lead thanks to a Quay Grant, two out RBI knock to score Travis Parker who singled with two outs to start the Saints rally. Hutch would manage a run off of Saints ace 1.B in Corey Collins in inning number two, but Seward would quickly get that run right back and add another as Parker ripped a two out double to left center field to make it a 3-1 ball game. Collins would proceed to retire the next 13 Dragons in order as Seward took advantage of subpar Hutch defense to extend their lead to 6-1. Seward’s sophomore sinker baller worked around a one out double in the 7th to close the door on Hutch as the Saints finished off the double header sweep of the conference leading Blue Dragons and put themselves in a position to win the series with a victory Monday. With the two wins the Saints creeped back into the conference title picture again and sat in 4th place, just two games behind the conference leaders Garden City and Colby who split earlier in the day.
Game three started much as the first two had for Seward County as starter Austin Terhune quickly retired the Blue Dragons in order in the first two innings to give the Saints a chance to capture the early lead. However, unlike the previous day, Hutchinson starter Adam Roy would match zeros on the scoreboard with Terhune through the first three frames as the game rapidly progressed to the 4th without a score. The Saints would make their first defensive miscue of the series to lead off the top half of the 4th as a groundball was mishandled and Hutch took advantage. Back to back to back hits capped off by a two run home run saw a 4 spot put up for the Dragons and the Saints trailed for the first time all series. The Saints failed to respond in the bottom half of the 4th and Hutch tacked on 3 more runs in the 5th as the first 5 batters of the frame were able to reach against Terhune and reliever Billy Ninemire. Ninemire stopped the bleeding long enough for the Saints to scratch out a run in the 6th as Todd Glime broke up Roy’s perfect game bid with a leadoff double where he was later driven in by Keegan Morrow to throttle the shutout bid as well. Seward again threatened to make a game of it in the 7th as a 2 RBI double from Campbell brought them to within 4 but the Saints would lead Campbell and Glime stranded on base with back to back strikeouts to end the game.
With the series win still in their grasps, the Saints looked to get back on the winning track in game two of the Monday double header with the Dragons. However, Hutch had other ideas about their ideal outcome of the day. With two quick outs in the top half of the first, the Saints thought they were going to see their 4th straight 1-2-3 inning to open up a game against the Blue Dragons. Unfortunately that didn’t happen and Hutch was able to put a pair of runners on board for Roy who sent the ball to the right center field wall for a pair of RBI’s to give the visitors a 2-0 lead. Mikel Huston walked to lead off the 1st inning but stayed there after a pair of pop outs and a strikeout to end the inning. Hutch would take advantage of a leadoff bean ball in the 2nd to score a run and make it 3-0, but Seward would turn around and benefit from a Dragon misplay in right field to score a run of their own and narrow the margin back to 2. A trio of walks in the 3rd would hand Hutch another run and after a pair of scoreless frames the Saints trailed 4-1 going to the 5th. Six of eight Hutch batters in the 5th inning would reach base resulting in a trio of runs, but a huge inning was averted thanks to a no out double play to stop some of the momentum. Down 7-1 in the 6th inning Seward again mounted a comeback as they were able to score a pair of runs but back to back strikeouts again shut down their momentum as they trailed 7-3 going to the 7th and final inning. After Parker threw a blank up on the scoreboard, the Saints showed a glimmer of hope in the bottom half of the inning bringing the tying run to the on deck circle but as par for the day, a strikeout would end the threat and in this case the game.
The split drops Seward to 15-13 in Jayhawk West Conference play and 29-19 overall. The Saints will now have to rely on sweeping Pratt next weekend in the Beavers home park as well as have one of the following happen to receive a home date for the Region VI playoffs: A sweep one way or another in the Colby @ Hutchinson series, a Cloud County sweep of Garden City in Garden, or a 2-2 split in the Dodge City/Butler series. All of which are not very likely to happen. The Saints currently sit in 6th place and with a sweep of Pratt Could finish no worse than 5th in the West but winning any less than all four games would leave them in 6th when the Region VI playoffs begin the first weekend of May. IF the playoffs were to start today, the Saints would find themselves on the road to Chanute to take on Neosho County, BUT with up to 12 games left for schools in the Jayhawk East, standings are likely to change before that time.