The Seward County Saints run to a Region VI Championship and a berth into the 2009 NJCAA World Series came to an end Wednesday night as they lost for the second time in consecutive nights to the Cowley Tigers. Seward was the winners bracket champions and had to be beaten by the Tigers twice and after holding leads in both games, couldn’t finish the job and finish the 2009 season as Region VI Runners-Up. The Saints finish the season 37-22 and finished the tournament with a 3-2 record.
After upsetting #3 seed Allen County in the tournaments opening round, the Seward County Saints had a new season on their mind and it started with a date against rival Hutchinson in the 2nd round of the 2009 Region VI Championship Tournament. The two teams split during the regular season on the Saints home turf but this was a different Seward County team that the Dragons would tangle with this time. The Saints sent ace Bobby Doran to the hill for their weekend opener against Hutchinson, after the big right hander had already dominated the Blue Dragons in a complete game shutout earlier in the season. However, Hutch would strike first in this one as pitcher Adam Roy singled to lead off the 2nd inning and was later driven in by a 2 out single from catcher Arrow Cunningham to give the Dragons the early 1-0 lead. The Saints had trouble with Roy through the first four innings, failing to collect a hit and finding just 2 runners on base through the first four frames. Trailing 1-0 in the 5th, Seward turned the page getting back to back singles to lead off the inning from Luke Campbell and Quay Grant to put them in business. After a costly error by third baseman Mace Krohl and a sacrifice fly by Jared Broadbent, the Saints had a 2-1 lead halfway home. That lead wouldn’t last long though as a leadoff walk and three hits in the bottom half of the inning by Hutch recaptured the lead for the Dragons and Seward again found themselves in a one run hole at 3-2. Neither team managed a hit through the 6th or 7th innings and the game remained close at 3-2 after 7 innings of play. After a one out triple by Broadbent in the 8th, Hutch brought in their All-Conference closer Kyle Rosine, a decision Head Coach Kyle Crookes would come to regret. The Saints picked up back to back RBI singles from Keegan Morrow and David Cruz to take the 4-3 lead off Rosine and with just six outs left to get, the Saints had visions of moving on in the top part of the Regional bracket. Hutchinson had other ideas however as Trever Adams would lead off with a single and after a sacrifice bunt and a steal of 3rd base, found himself just 90 feet away from tying the game with only one out on the scoreboard. Doran picked up a clutch strikeout of Roy with one out but with two outs in the inning a crucial throwing error by the Saints tied the game at 4 after 8 innings of play. In the 9th Seward would waste no time on reclaiming their lead as three consecutive singles to open the inning and a bases loaded walk would swing the pendulum back in favor of the Saints with a 5-4 lead. With the bases still loaded and nobody out, the Saints looked as if they might blow the game open in the last frame but after three straight weakly hit ground balls on the infield, failed to plate another run and held just a one run advantage heading to the bottom of the 9th. Head Coach Galen McSpadden sent his horse Doran back out to the hill in the final inning but after a one out walk to Hutch’s nine hole batter, the NJCAA Hall of Famer decided it was time to go to his fireman Travis Parker. Parker gave up a hit to the first batter he faced but the runner was cut down at second base trying to advance on a bobble and gave the Saints two outs but a runner just 90 feet away from sending the game to extra innings. It was Parker time however and the Saints sophomore right hander showed why he is the SCCC All-Time saved leader as he threw a devastating two strike slider to Hutch second baseman Luke Acosta for a swing and a miss and sent the Saints on in the winner’s bracket with a 5-4 victory. Doran picked up his 10th win of the year in the victory while Parker nailed down his 11th save and 3rd in the Saints past 3 games. The win meant the Saints would take on the champions of the Jayhawk’s Eastern Division, the Cowley Tigers in round number two Sunday night in Wichita. BOX SCORE
The two top teams in the Jayhawk Conference in recent history had a prime time date set for Sunday night at Lawrence Dumont Stadium in Wichita as the Seward County Saints, winners of two of the last three Jayhawk West titles took on the Cowley Tigers, winners of three straight Jayhawk East titles. A premier pitching matchup between highly touted Stephen Kohlscheen of Cowley and less heralded but equally as talented Corey Collins of Seward was on tap for the 8:00 start. Seward struck first in the 2nd inning as Luke Campbell singled to lead off the inning, stole second base and later came around to score on an RBI single from Kelby Tomlinson to give the Saints a 1-0 lead. After a 2nd zero put up by Collins in the bottom of the 2nd, the Saints hammered out three more runs and successfully knocked Kohlscheen out of the game with a pair of hits and four walks in the top half of the 3rd to take a 4-0 lead. Cowley scored a run in the 4th thanks in part to a leadoff walk and sloppy Saints defense to narrow the lead to 4-1 but Seward got that run right back in the top half of the 5th as an RBI groundout by Quay Grant would reopen the lead to 4 at 5-1. The Saints would push the lead to 6-1 in the 8th as a leadoff double by Keegan Morrow and a bases loaded bean ball of Campbell would plate a run which was more than enough for the Saints pitching staff as Collins pitched into the 9th and Travis Parker came on to get the final out of the game to secure a 6-2 win and send the Saints to the tournament semifinals against Colby. Collins went 8 2/3 innings for the Saints scattering 6 hits and didn’t allow an earned run in the win. BOX SCORE
With renewed confidence on a second season the Saints moved on to take on Colby in the winners bracket semifinals Monday night. In the regular season conference opening weekend the Saints and Trojans split but as the season pushed on the Trojans propelled themselves towards the top of the conference standings while the Saints found themselves in an unusual spot near the middle of the pack in the Jayhawk West. The first four Saints hitters reached base in the 1st inning, plating two runs and giving them the quick 2-0 advantage. Three straight Colby batters would single in the top of the 2nd inning but the Trojans would be able to push just one run across and after a two run shot by Luke Campbell in the Saints half of the 3rd, Seward would lead 4-1. Jared Broadbent would call and raise Campbell’s two run bomb with a light tower two run shot of his own in the 4th to give the Saints a 6-1 lead after 4 innings of play. Just when it looked like everything was going right for the Saints, the 5th inning started and a hit parade for the Trojans started. When the dust settled in the top half of the 5th Colby had 7 runs on 7 hits to take an 8-6 lead. But a touchdown by the Trojans in the 5th wasn’t going to get the Saints down as the first 4 batters of their half of the 5th reached capped by a 2 run single by Quay Grant to tie the score at 8 apiece. To put it lightly hits weren’t at a premium Monday night as Colby responded to the Saints 4 straight hits in the 5th with 4 straight hits of their own in the 6th but were able to push just one run across but nevertheless took a 9-8 lead with that tally. Both teams went in order in their next at bats and the score remained 9-8 going to the Saints half of the 7th. Seward capitalized a pair of hits to open the inning, a sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly to score a run and tie the game at 9 with two innings remaining in this explosive affair. Kevin Schultz pitched around a leadoff walk in the 8th to put a goose egg on the board for Colby in the top half and kept the game tied at 9 going to the Saints half of the 8th. Keegan Morrow singled to lead off the frame and David Cruz bunted him over to second base on the sacrifice. With Morrow on second, Travis Parker picked an RBI single up the middle to score Morrow and give the Saints a 10-9 lead. After he was caught trying to advance to second on the throw to the plate, Parker made a b-line to the Saints bullpen to get loose to enter the game on the mound in the next half inning and hopefully lock down a win for the Saints and a berth into the championship game. That is just what Parker did as the right-hander pitched around a one out single and got right fielder Drew Ziegler to ground out to third and end the game in an exciting 10-9 win for the Saints to send them on to the Region VI Championship Game slated for Tuesday night. In a game that featured 35 hits, Campbell and Huston combined to go 8 for 10 for the Saints while all but one starter for the Trojans had at least two hits in the game. The win meant that the Saints would move into the Region VI Championship game against the winner of the Colby/Cowley game Wednesday afternoon with the winner of that game having to beat the Saints on both Tuesday and Wednesday night to move on to the World Series. BOX SCORE
Cowley defeated Colby 4-3 with a pair of 8th inning runs Tuesday afternoon to setup the rematch with the Saints in Championship Game #1 Tuesday night. Those looking for the well pitched, well played game they saw between the two Sunday night would need to look the other way as this one could not have been more night and day between the first matchup with the Saints and Tigers. Cowley would get a 1st inning home run off the bat of BJ Misialek but Seward would quickly get that run back with an RBI single from Mikel Huston in their half of the 1st to tie the game at 1 all. RBI singles from David Cruz and Huston in the 2nd would give the Saints a 3-1 lead but left the bases loaded as the inning ended, something that would come back to haunt them later on. Cowley evened the score at 3 in the 3rd without the benefit of a hit as 3 walks and an error led to a pair of Tiger runs in the frame. In the bottom of the 3rd Keegan Morrow picked up a 2 out RBI double to score Quay Grant and put the ball back in the Saints court as they led 4-3 after a third of the ballgame was complete. Jared Wagner gave the Saints a scoreless 4th inning and Seward took advantage in the bottom half scoring 5 runs on just 3 hits, benefited by poor Cowley defense to take a 9-3 lead after 4. With glimpses of Grand Junction in sight, the Saints bullpen imploded in the next three innings. In the 5th, Saints pitching loaded the bases and scored a run for Cowley without the Tigers even having to take a bat to the plate as a pair of hit by pitches and a matching pair of walks gave Cowley a run and kept the bases loaded with nobody out. That’s when Cowley saw light at the end of the tunnel and like a shark in bloody waters, took advantage as third baseman Frank Specht launched a 2-2 Avram Carlson pitch out of the park for a grand slam and pull the Tigers to within one at 9-8. A shell shocked Saints team went in order in the bottom of the 5th and Cowley scored another run in the 6th inning to tie the game at 9. For the second straight inning the Saints went down 1-2-3 in the 6th against Cowley closer Trevor Rosenthal and pumped full of adrenalin, Cowley shredded Saints pitching in the 7th for 6 consecutive runs to start off the inning as they capped off 12 unanswered runs to take a 15-9 lead. Again the Saints went without a fight in the bottom of the 7th against Rosenthal but Saints reliever Austin Terhune was able to quiet the storm in the top of the 8th with a zero to keep the game within distance in this shootout at 15-9. Seward clawed back into the game with three consecutive hits and runs in the bottom of the 8th to make it 15-12 but again left the bases loaded to end the inning and put themselves behind the 8 ball going to the 9th. Terhune again gave the Saints a quality inning of relief in the 9th to keep the deficit where it was but Seward was unable to put across a run in the bottom of the inning as back to back fly outs ended the game and brought the “if” game into effect Wednesday night. In the game there were 27 runs scored, 31 hits, 13 walks, 5 bean balls, and 10 errors. The Tigers left 10 runners on base while the Saints left 13 men stranded including 9 runners in scoring position to end innings. The Cowley win meant that the two teams would play again Wednesday night with everything on the line as the loss was just the first for the Saints in the tournament. BOX SCORE
Even with the game one loss behind them, the Seward County Saints felt like they had their ducks in a row against Cowley in game two of the Championship round. Seward had both their aces ready to go in Bobby Doran and Corey Collins as well as a rested closer in Travis Parker who had thrown just 2 innings in the tournament. Cowley on the other hand was seemingly out of pitching besides Stephen Kohlscheen who had an abbreviated start against the Saints just two days before and was touched for 4 runs and 5 hits in those 2 1/3 innings of work Sunday. Both Kohlscheen and Doran worked out of jams in the 1st as Seward 2 runners on and Cowley left the bases full after a 2 out strikeout by the Saints ace. After another scoreless frame in the 2nd by both clubs, back to back hits from Jared Broadbent and Keegan Morrow gave the Saints a 1-0 lead after 3 innings of play. With the score 1-0 in the bottom of the 4th, the Cowley bats came alive for a 6 run inning by putting together 6 hits on top of a walk and a 2 out error to give them a 6-1 lead. The Saints managed just one base runner through the 5th and 6th innings against Kohlscheen but a 1-2-3 inning by Doran in the 5th and Collins escaping a runner on third, no out situation for the Saints in the 6th out of the bullpen kept the game at 6-1 with 3 innings left to play. Morrow and Broadbent were again in the middle of the Saints scoring in the 7th as Broadbent singled home Kelby Tomlinson with one out and later moved to third on a double by Morrow then scored on a groundout by David Cruz to cut the lead to 6-3. Collins would induce double play balls to end the 7th and 8th innings to give Seward a chance in the 9th down 6-3. The Saints brought the tying run to the plate in the top of the 9th but a tailor made double play ball would end the game and dash the hopes of the Saints who had come so far in the last week only to finish second to the victorious Tigers. The loss for the Saints ended their season at 37-22 and places them 2nd in the Region VI Tournament. BOX SCORE