Most the time when you see a team clinch a conference or division championship you will see them jumping up and down on the field after the game in celebration. Saturday afternoon the Seward County Saints clinched the Jayhawk West Championship and the #1 seed from the West for the upcoming Region VI Tournament while on the road at Pratt but there was no celebration other than their normal handshakes going on, as winning the conference title has been a thing of routine for the Saints who have now captured the crown in 9 of the past 11 seasons.

With their magic number to clinch the conference down to four, the Saints took the field Friday afternoon against the Beavers at Stanion Field in Pratt. The Beavers drew first blood in game one as they got a leadoff single, a sacrifice bunt and then a two out single to put themselves ahead 1-0 after 1. Seward tied the game at 1 in the 2nd when Tyler Hill reached on a one out error that was followed by a double from Ben Wainwright and then a sacrifice fly off the bat of Jon Mestas to score Hill. The score wouldnít stay tied for long though as the pesky Beavers put together a one out triple and groundout to score another run and take a 2-1 lead into the 3rd. Neither team scored in the next two innings as a pair of double plays killed Saints rallyís while Logan Hall began to settle in to shut down the Beavers in the 3rd and 4th innings. In the 5th Seward finally got things going with the bats as Mestas drew a leadoff walk and would later score on an error to tie the game and with two outs in the inning JT Bean ripped a double to right field to score two more runs for the Saints to give them their first lead of the day at 4-2. Hall pitched around a leadoff double in the bottom of the inning to keep it a 4-2 game and the Saints added another run in the top of the 6th when Hill singled to start the frame and crossed home plate after a two out hit from Eddie Williams to make it 5-2. Pratt got it to a two run game in the bottom of the 6th as they strung together a pair of runs to start the inning but that was all the damage that they could do as Hall induced a double play ball later in the inning to keep it a 5-3 game into the 7th. Looking to add an insurance run in the top of the 7th Steven Polito walked to start the inning but the Saints could do nothing with it as he was stranded at second to end the inning to keep it a two run game as the Beavers came up for their last at bats. As usual, Hall seemed to get better as the game went along and the 7th inning of this one was no different as the Seward righty cruised through the Pratt order in the 7th on just 10 pitches, going 1-2-3 to finish the game and give the Saints a 5-3 win in the series opener. Hall earned the win, going all 7 innings for his 11th career complete game, moving him into second place in school history in the category, while allowing 7 hits and 3 runs and striking out 6 without walking a Beaver batter. Bean had the big blow in the game offensively for Seward with the 2 run single in the 5th as he finished 1 for 4 with 2 RBIís while Willy Gustin was the only Saint with a multi-hit game as he was 2 for 3 in the contest.
Pratt raced out to a 3-0 lead in game two of the series as they cashed in a pair of free passes in the 1st and an unearned run in the 2nd to put the Saints in a hole right away. Seward scored their first run in the 3rd inning when Brittain Ibbotson doubled and later scored on a groundout from Bean to cut the Pratt lead to 3-1. Back to back one out doubles for the Beavers in the 3rd would score two more runs for the home team and into the 4th inning the Saints faced a 5-1 deficit. Jose Gonzalez kept Pratt in check in the 4th and 5th innings as sat down six Beaver hitters in a row including three straight strikeouts in the 5th but Seward couldnít take advantage as they went down in order in both innings as well to keep it a 5-1 game as the teams took the field for the 6th. Jordan Dallalio doubled to start the Seward 6th and would score on the next pitch of the game as Bean hammered his second home run of the season over the right field wall for a two run shot to cut the Pratt lead to 5-3. The Saints made it a one run game later on as Williams drove home Hill with a two out single in the 6th for the second straight game and as the bottom of the 6th approached, Seward trailed just 5-4. Their deficit grew in the bottom of the inning however as a pair of one out singles scored a run and a Seward error also scored in the inning to give Pratt a 7-4 cushion. In the 7th inning the Saints sent nine hitters to the plate as Gustin, Dallalio, and Bean started the frame with hits to score one run and Hill singled to right later on to score Dallalio to once again make it a one run game at 7-6. The Saints werenít done though as Polito singled with two outs in front of a single by Williams to score two more runs to put Seward on top for the first time in the game 8-7. The Beavers would not trail for long as in their half of the 7th they would get two runners on right away and would plate them both on a one out single to continue the seesaw battle and put themselves ahead 9-8. Both teams managed a two out baserunner in the 8th but neither would be able to score and so the game went to the final inning with Pratt still on top 9-8. Hill lifted the spirits of the Saints bench quickly in the top of the 9th with a leadoff triple and scored the equalizer later on in the inning courtesy of a wild pitch to tie the game as it went to the bottom of the 9th. Austin Beisel found himself in some trouble in the Beaver 9th with two on and two out but got a groundout to short to end the inning and send the game to extras tied at 9. After two quick outs to start the Seward 10th, Dallalio singled to right and moved up to second on a wild pitch to put himself in scoring position for Kyle Henke who replaced Bean after leaving the game with an injury. On a 2-1 pitch Henke laced a single up the middle and into center field and Dallalio motored around third base and slid in ahead of the throw to give the Saints a 10-9 lead. With the one run lead Seward turned to its closer Gustin to throw the bottom of the 10th. The freshman lefty did his job, getting the first batter to pop out on three pitches before getting a three pitch strikeout to quickly put two outs on the board with nobody on. After a lengthy battle with Pratt designated hitter Bobby Warchuck, Gustin would sneak a 3-2 slider onto the corner for a strikeout to end the game and give the Saints the 10-9 win in 10. Seward pounded out 17 hits in the win including a 4 for 5 game from Dallalio and a 3 for 5 contest for Bean who also drove in 4 runs in the win. Hill finished with 3 hits and 3 runs scored while Williams was 2 for 5 with 3 RBIís for the Saints. Beisel earned the win in relief on the mound for Seward, going 2 2/3 innings while allowing 2 hits and 0 runs before turning the ball over to Gustin who moved into third place on the single season saves list with his fifth after pitching a scoreless 10th and fanning a pair.
Although they took both games on day one of the series, the Saints performance was not up to par with a team that was battling for a conference championship on their final weekend of conference play. Saturday afternoon in game three things would get even worse. Pratt jumped ahead for the third straight game early on as they used a Saints error to score a 2nd inning run and then a two run home run in the 4th to take a 3-0 lead into the 5th. The Seward offense just could not figure out Pratt starter Jarrod Jameson who had traffic on in four of the first five innings but allowed only one runner to reach second base while keeping the Saints off the scoreboard and his Beavers ahead 3-0 into the bottom of the 5th. The Saints Paul Pulley worked his way out of a mess in the bottom of the 5th after hitting the leadoff batter to keep it a 3-0 game but Seward could get nothing out of three singles in the 6th inning to remain down 3-0 with just three outs remaining. A two out walk proved costly to Seward in the 6th as the Beavers got a double from shortstop Jordon Jenkins following the free pass to score a run and make it a 4-0 game into the 7th. In the Saints 7th Carlos Dorado picked up a one out single to bring the tying run two doors down but that was as close as Seward got as Dorado became the Saints ninth stranded runner of the day as the inning and the game came to a close with the Beavers victorious 4-0. The shutout was just the second against the Saints all season and the first in conference play. Seward outhit the Beavers 9 to 6 in the loss, getting 2 for 3 games from Dallalio, Jake Barrios, and Ibbotson while Pulley suffered the loss after going the complete game and allowing 6 hits and 4 runs while striking out 8.
In the series finale the Saints once again found themselves in a hole as Pratt used a pair of walks and a double to push across three runs to take a 3-0 lead after 1. Seward managed a three spot of their own in the top of the 3rd inning when Barrios, Wainwright, and Polito ripped consecutive RBI singles with two outs to even the game a 3 apiece. The Saints remained on the offensive in the 4th as Polito and Mestas had the big blows in a five run frame to put the guys in green on top 8-3. In the Pratt 4th the Beavers loaded the bases with nobody out which spawned Saints skipper Galen McSpadden to call on Jace Moore from the bullpen. Moore worked magic with his left arm as he got a ground ball on the infield which forced a runner out at the plate, a strikeout, and a pop out to short to escape the jam without allowing a run to keep the Saints ahead 8-3. The Beavers did close the gap in the 5th with a pair of runs but Moore would keep them there and after a scoreless 6th in which he worked out of trouble again, had his Saints on top 8-5 into the 7th. Two straight doubles off the bats of Sam Pack and Ibbotson in the 7th would give Seward a run and a pair of two out walks followed by an RBI single to left off the barrel of Wainwright scored two more to put the Saints on top 11-5. That was it for scoring in the contest as Hall was summoned out of the Seward bullpen and slammed the door shut on the Beavers for the final three innings to pick up the save after earning the complete game win in game one to give the Saints an 11-5 win to clinch the Jayhawk West Conference Championship. Seward finished with 15 hits in the win as all nine starters had a hit and either an RBI or a run scored in the 11-5 victory. Polito paced the offense with a 3 for 5 game and 3 RBIís while Wainwright was 2 for 4 with 3 RBIís as well. Mestas and Ibbotson each had 2 hits and an RBI and Hill ended the afternoon 2 for 5 with 3 runs scored. Moore picks up the win after throwing 3 innings while allowing 5 hits and 2 runs before giving the ball over to the Saints ace Hall who earned his second save of the season by going the final 3 innings and allowing just 1 hit and no runs.
The series victory and help from around the conference gives the Saints their 9th conference title in the past 11 years and McSpaddenís 14th overall as Head Coach for Seward. The Saints finish Jayhawk West Conference action 24-8 for the second straight season and will be the #1 seed out of the West when Region VI Tournament play begins after finishing with a 21-7 mark in Region VI West play on the year. Seward is now 37-18 overall on the year and will wrap up the regular season on Wednesday in Clarendon with a single nine inning contest against the Bulldogs starting at 3:00. Seward will then turn their attention towards Region VI Tournament play where they will open up at home in the Liberal Sub-Regional on Saturday, May 7th at 1:00 against the #8 seed from the Jayhawk East. Stay tuned to for updated information on the Liberal Sub-Regional as teams begin to fall in place and a bracket it officially set.