Early April is about the time of year where the Seward County Saints baseball team starts to turn the corner and this weekend in Pratt they werenít going to let an extremely thin pitching staff change that this year. The Saints went into their four game series with the Beavers without the services of two of their normal weekend starters and began the weekend with a nearly bare bullpen that had just two members in it to go along with a pair of two way position players who could meet the challenge if called upon. The Saints certainly didnít need their bullpen in game one as Tyler Wiedenfeld tossed a 53 pitch complete game in a 12-1 win and in game two it didnít look like they would either as they carried a 13-5 lead into the 7th inning before crumbling and eventually falling 18-15 on a walkoff grand slam by the Beavers. Sunday Seward got another stellar outing from freshman lefty Hayden Howard to win game three 5-2 and in game four, three Saints pitchers including their game one starter Wiedenfeld, got the job done in a 6-5 win to take the series 3-1 and take over 1st place in the Jayhawk West.

In game one the Saints put three runners on in the 1st inning before seeing their half of the frame end as Troy Owen was gunned down at the plate with two outs to keep them off the board. The Beavers took an early 1-0 lead after a one out double and a pair of wild pitches pushed a run across, but the Saints battled right back with three 2nd inning runs highlighted by an RBI triple from Bret Lewis to go on top 3-1. The Saints added to their advantage in the 3rd as five straight one out hits from Deven Nelson, Mason Marshall, Alex Scanlan, Johnny Griffith, and Francisco Bolanos gave them three more runs and a passed ball two pitches later scored another to quickly make it 7-1. The Beavers had something going in the bottom of the 3rd with three singles, but Saints ace Tyler Wiedenfeld used his patented double play ball and then a strikeout to keep Pratt without a run in the frame and keep the Saints on top 7-1. A Bryson Allen triple and sacrifice fly from Owen gave the Saints an 8-1 lead and a eight pitch 4th for Wiedenfeld kept the score that way as the teams went to the 5th. Seward blew the game wide open in the 5th with a two run double from Griffith to make it 10-1 and later on RBIís from Jacob Fuller and Allen to make it a 12-1 game. With the run rule staring the Beavers in the eyes Wiedenfeld shut things down. A bunt single and two out walk gave Pratt a chance, but Wiedenfeld was just teasing the Beavers as he got Prattís top hitter Jared Crouch out three pitches later to end the game and give the Saints a 12-1 win in 5 innings.
It was hard to tell who was better in the game, Wiedenfeld who tossed a 53 pitch complete game, or the Saints offense who cracked 15 hits and put up 12 runs. The Saints bats produced 7 extra base hits in the win, each of the 7 from a different Seward hitter. The Saints 5-7 hole hitters were on fire in the win as Marshall, Scanlan, and Griffith went a combined 7 for 7 with 7 runs scored and 4 RBIís in the victory. To take it a step further, Sewardís 4-8 hitters combined to go 11 for 13. Six different Saints had 2 or more hits in the win and every starter scored or drove in a run for the guys in green. Wiedenfeld went the distance on limited pitches, allowing just 5 hits, 4 singles, and 1 run while fanning 4 to pick up his 8th win of the year. Wiedenfeld has now won 6 straight decisions for the Saints, all in Jayhawk West action, and Seward has only had to go to the bullpen twice, for a total of 2 1/3 innings in his 6 conference starts.
Game two of the series was more of a throwback Jayhawk West game with a North wind making things very interesting on the games pitching and defense. It was Seward who scored first in the second game of the double header as the first four Saints to come to the plate reached in the 1st, including an RBI double from Owen to score their first run and later on a groundout off the bat from Marshall to make it a 2-0 game. Pratt got the runs right back in the bottom half, using a Seward error to score their first run and extend the inning to score two more and take a 3-2 lead. The Saints tied the game in the top of the 3rd on another RBI double from Owen and took the lead later on in the frame when Owen scored on a passed ball to make it 4-3 Seward. The Seward lead stretched to 5-3 in the 4th on an RBI from Fuller and Saints starter Austin King got into a groove, not allowing a Beaver baserunner passed first base from the 2nd to the 5th innings to keep the Saints in front. Seward opened the game up in the 6th, scoring their first run of the inning thanks to a Pratt error to make it 6-3 and then the floodgates opened. A two RBI double from Fuller later in the inning made it 8-3 and RBI singles from Allen, Marshall, and Scanlan made the score 11-3. Pratt got a pair of runs back in the bottom of the inning, but it remained an 11-5 game in favor of the Saints as the teams went to the 7th. The Saints got the two runs back in the top of the 7th inning Fuller singled home Lewis who was hit by a pitch and Owen drove him in later in the inning to push their lead back to eight, 13-5. King seemed to have hit a wall after the 7th inning stretch, allowing the first five Pratt hitters to reach base in the inning, cutting the Seward lead to 13-7 and then Saints reliever Derrick Valenzuela was pummeled, allowing four of the five hitters he faced reach base as Saints pitching yielded seven runs, nearly coughing up the lead before closer Johnny Griffith came in to get out of the mess as Seward clinged to a one run 13-12 lead. The Saints got a lone run back in the top of the 8th when Allen walked with the bases loaded, but a fly out left the bases loaded and it cost them later on. A leadoff single and two run home run from Justin Crouch, his second of the game, tied the game at 14, but Griffith was able to hold it there and send the shootout to the 9th tied at 14-14. Nelson was hit by a pitch to start the Seward 9th and a walk to Marshall put two on and two out for the Saints. Nelson moved to third on a fly out and then scored the go ahead run on a passed ball to make it 15-14 Saints. The bottom of the Seward order wasnít able to add anything else to the scoreboard and Saints went to the bottom of the 9th clinging to a 15-14 lead. The inning didnít get off to the start the Saints drew up as a hit batter put the tying run on base and a single on the next pitch put two on with nobody out. The Beavers laid down a sacrifice bunt with their next batter, but the Saints couldnít take the free out and it loaded the bases with Prattís hottest hitter coming to the plate in Crouch. After a first pitch ball, Crouch launched the 1-0 pitch from Griffith towering over the left field wall for a no-doubter grand slam to walk off the Saints in an 18-15 defeat.
The home run, Crouchís third of the game gave the Pratt first baseman a 4 for 6 game with 8 RBIís and 5 runs scored, after coming into the series hitting just .256 for the Beavers. Pratt banged out 22 hits against Seward pitching in the win. The Saints managed 12 hits and got outstanding efforts at the plate from Fuller and Owen who each had 3 hits and combined for 7 RBIís in the loss. Griffith suffers the loss on the mound for Seward, falling to 0-3 on the year, allowing 7 hits and 6 runs, all earned in 1 1/3 innings of work.
To open day two of the series the Saints stayed hot on the offensive end, scoring three times in the 1st inning on RBIís from Nelson, Marshall, and Scanlan to take the early 3-0 lead for starter Hayden Howard. Seward added another run in the 2nd on an RBI groundout from Owen to make it 4-0 and made it 5-0 in the 3rd as Marshall crossed the plate on a Pratt error. With their bullpen already taxed after the barnburner in game two, Howard gave Seward exactly when they needed, quieting the Beaver bats through four, allowing just a pair of singles to keep the Saints in front. Pratt finally cracked the southpaw in the 5th, stringing together a pair of singles and taking advantage of a Seward bobble on the infield to score their first run, but Howard remained calm and got a tailor made double play ball off the bat of Crouch two pitches later with two runners on base to avert further damage and keep the Saints in front 5-1. Again Pratt used a Seward defensive miscue to score a single run in the 6th to make it a 5-2 game, but Howard slammed the door on the Beavers to finish the 6th and then did the same in the 7th to preserve the lead and give the Saints the 5-2 win.
Howard dialed up just what the doctor ordered in the win, going all 7 innings for Seward, allowing 7 hits, all singles and 2 runs to improve his record on the season to 4-3. Hits were even at 7 a side and Owen and Scanlan were the only two Seward players to have more than 1 hit in the contest as both finished 2 for 4 with an RBI.
Tied for 1st place in the Jayhawk West after Dodge City fell to Butler earlier in the day, the Saints had a tough task ahead of them as they sent Garret Smith, who came into the game struggling with a 16.50 ERA, to the mound in game four. Smith rose to the occasion when the Saints needed him most on this day. The big sophomore breezed through the Beaver lineup 1-2-3 in the 1st inning and let the Saints score first in the series finale as Scanlan doubled home Marshall to make it 1-0 in the 2nd and scored himself later in the inning to push the Seward lead to 2-0. Smith pitched another perfect frame in the 2nd and didnít allow Pratt a baserunner until the 3rd when they were able to push one run across to make it 2-1. The Saints offense couldnít add to their lead and it remained a 2-1 game into the bottom of the 5th . Smith got the Saints one out in the 5th before being lifted after a much needed quality outing and gave way to Adam Guay, who was the last available pitcher to throw for the Saints in the weekend. The Beavers were able to scratch out a pair of runs against Seward in the inning on two singles to take their first lead of the game at 3-2, but the Saints fought right back, scoring a run in the 6th after doubles from Nelson and Scanlan to tie the game at 3. Guay pitched around trouble in the 6th to keep the score tied and the Saints took the lead back in the top of the 7th when Francisco Bolanos singled to start the inning and later came around to score on a Beaver error to make it 4-3. Guay pitched his second strong inning in the bottom of the 7th, allowing just a one out walk as far as baserunners, but the Beavers were able to strike thanks in part to the Saints in the 8th. A leadoff single and sacrifice bunt put the tying run on second with one out and a Seward error allowed the run to score to make it 4-4. Another sac bunt gave Seward their second out with a runner moving up to second and after a walk, back to back Seward errors allowed another Pratt run home to make it 5-4 Beavers after 8. Then it was Sewardís turn to manufacture some offense. Griffith walked after a seven pitch at bat to get things going and a sac bunt from Fuller moved him into scoring position at second with one out. Allen then came up and slammed a double into the gap to score Griffith and tie the game at 5 and a single from Owen put runners on the corners with one out. A sacrifice fly off the bat of Nelson greeted reliever Clayton Banks scored Owen to put the Saints ahead 6-5 and that is when the Saints turned to the unlikeliest of pitchers to finish off the game. Having to throw only 53 pitches in game one, the Saints went back to their ace with the series on the line and Wiedenfeld answered the bell. A highlight reel play by Griffith at third got the inning started and the first out of the inning recorded and a fly ball against the wind didnít have enough legs to do any damage as the second out was recorded. On a 1-2 count, Wiedenfeld blew a fastball by Bryce Dean for strike three to finish the game and give the Saints a 6-5 win to clinch the series.
Seward outhit the Beavers handily in the game 12-5, but 4 Saint errors cost them a pair of runs in the one run contest. Scanlan led the Seward sticks with 2 hits, both doubles, and 2 RBIís in the victory while Allen and Owen both had 2 hits as well. Smith got a no decision after 4 1/3 innings of work, allowing 2 hits and 2 runs while striking out 4. Guay earned the win by going 3 2/3 innings, yielding 3 hits and 2 earned runs while picking up 1 strikeout. Wiedenfeld notched his first career save with a 1-2-3 9th to preserve the win.
The Saints take over 1st place all to themselves after getting some help from their friends in El Dorado against Dodge City. Seward is now 22-21 overall on the season and 16-8 in Jayhawk West Conference action. With two conference series left, the Saints are 1 game ahead of Dodge City and 2 games ahead of Garden City and Butler who are tied for 3rd. Sewardís schedule is light over the next week and a half as they will try to matchup with Clarendon Wednesday, weather permitting, at Brent Gould Field at 3:00 for a nine inning game and will use their bye weekend to get healthy after that. The Saints return to conference action on Saturday, April 20th when they host the Colby Trojans for a four game set at Brent Gould Field.