While it has become almost commonplace in the past 20 years for the Seward County Saints to be on top of the Jayhawk West standings at years end, when the 2013 version of the Saints found out that they had brought home the title once again this season, the celebration was no less intense. After splitting 5-4 and 6-0 games on day one of the series, the Saints actually went into the final day of the regular season one game behind rival Garden City. After taking care of their part and blanking Cloud County in 7-0 and 10-0 wins, Seward had their eyes glued on the action in Dodge City where they needed help from their friends on Boot Hill against the Busters. About an hour into their trip back from Concordia there were a few claps and cheers as Seward found out that Dodge won game three against Garden City to give the Saints at least a share of the conference title, but after the Conqs came back from down 5-0 in the bottom of the 9th inning to win game four of the series to give the Saints the outright title, the bus erupted in celebration. The Jayhawk West title is Sewardís 10th in the past 13 years and their 14th in the past 19 years.


Tied with rival Garden City going into the final weekend of the regular season, the Saints knew they would need wins in at least three of the four games against Cloud County to give themselves a good shot at capturing the league crown. Things looked bright in the 1st inning of game one for the Saints as they put two runners on and threatened to score, but a groundout left both runners aboard and starting a disturbing trend of runners left on base in the game. Seward got on the board first in the 2nd inning as they put together three straight singles to start the inning, including an RBI single from Johnny Griffith to give themselves a 1-0 lead. However, with a chance to extend the lead, they would roll over a pair of groundouts to prevent further damage, leaving their third and fourth runners on base in the first two innings. Cloud County put together three hits and took advantage of a pair of walks against Seward ace Tyler Wiedenfeld in the bottom of the 2nd to score two runs and after 2 it was Cloud 2 and Seward 1. The Saints came through in the clutch in the top of the 3rd as Deven Nelson walked with one out and with two outs in the inning remained at first base until Mason Marshall slammed a 3-1 pitched to the wall in center to bring Nelson home to tie the game at 2. The T-Birds were back on the offensive in the bottom of the 3rd putting runners on second and third with nobody out, but Wiedenfeld was able to work his magic, getting a ground ball double play and a strikeout to end the threat and keep the game knotted at 2. Once again the Saints had traffic in the 4th but werenít able to do any damage after Griffith was hit by a pitch and Bret Lewis singled with one out but were stranded after a fly out to end the inning without a run. Wiedenfeld worked a lightning quick 1-2-3 bottom half of the 4th against the T-Birds and finally hit offense rewarded him in the top of the 5th. Nelson singled on the first pitch of the inning and Troy Owen was hit by a pitch two pitches later to put two on and no out. A perfectly executed sacrifice bunt by Marshall moved the runners up 90 feet and a sac fly off the bat of Alex Scanlan brought a run home to make it 3-2. Cloud starter Cory Blumer seemed to hit a wall after that, walking the next two hitters to load the bases for the Saints and chase him from the game, but Seward would leave three more ducks on the pond after a strikeout as they clung to the 3-2 advantage. The Saints defense cost them a run in the bottom of the 5th to tie the game up at 3 as a single, a stolen base, and an error gave Cloud the equalizer, but like the Saints, Cloud was unable to cash in on a bases loaded situation to end the inning and the nailbiting opener continued. Bryson Allen singled and Nelson walked with one out in the Saints 6th, but their kryptonite found them again as a pair of strikeouts thwarted their scoring efforts to keep the game tied 3-3 with their 11th and 12th runners left on in the game. Wiedenfeld battled through the T-Birds in the 6th and the Saints took the lead in the top of the 7th when the cardiac kid Bret Lewis singled home Scanlan with two outs to put the Saints in front 4-3. A leadoff single got the Cloud 7th going and a Seward error followed by a groundout put the runner at third with one out in the inning. On a 2-2 pitch, Josh Rall singled to left field to score the runner from third and tied the game up once again, this time at 4. The game went to extra innings and Nelson worked a four pitch walk to start the Saints 8th. He was sacrificed over to second on a bunt from Owen and moved to third on a fly out to deep center. Working his way back into the count after falling behind 0-2, Scanlan squibbed a 2-2 pitch past the pitcher Matt Forsythe to reach first on an infield single to score Nelson from third and give the Saints a 5-4 lead. The Saints then turned it over on the mound to Griffith who looked for his fifth save of the 2013 season. The Seward righthander blew away the first two hitters he saw with strikeouts to put two quick outs on the board before a single put the tying run on base. Thatís when Griffith turned it up another notch, dialing up a sharp curveball and a painted fastball to get ahead of Josh Brown 1-2 before catching the outside corner with a fastball on the next pitch to close the game out and give Seward the 5-4 extra innings win.

Both teams had 11 hits in the contest with Scanlan leading Seward with a 3 for 4, 2 RBI game. Lewis was 2 for 4 with an RBI for the Saints in the win and Nelson reached base in 4 of 5 trips to the plate as he went 1 for 2 with 3 walks while scoring 3 runs. Wiedenfeld earned his 10th win of the season to tie him for the national lead in the ballgame. The Saints ace went 7 innings and scattered 10 hits while striking out 7. He finishes the Jayhawk West Conference season a perfect 8-0 on the mound, winning every opener for the Saints. Griffith gets the save with a 3 strikeout 8th to pick up his fifth save of the season and 11th career save, moving him into 2nd place all-time in that category, just one behind Seward record holder Travis Parker.

SEWARD COUNTY/CLOUD COUNTY GAME ONE BOX SCORE

While the Saints won game one, there were still a lot of question marks coming from the Seward side after a lackluster performance. It didnít get any better in game two as the Saints picked up where they left off offensively, loading the bases in the 1st inning just to see two strikeouts finish the inning without them scoring. The Saints had another scoring chance in the 3rd as they put two runners on, but another strikeout spelled the end of the frame as they still couldnít push a run across in support of starter Austin King. King seemed unfazed by the lack of run support, retiring nine straight batters through the third inning to keep it a scoreless game. Cloud finally got to King in the 4th, getting a leadoff walk and a bunt single to put two on with nobody out. A sac bunt moved the runners up a station and a single pushed home the first run of the game to make it 1-0 T-Birds. A hit batter put runners on the corners, but a strikeout by King made the second out of the inning. On an 0-1 pitch to the next batter, a pitchers worst nightmare came true for the Seward lefty. A line drive off the bat of Cloudís Jordan Brown knicked off of Kingís glove and deflected square into the freshmanís right eye, dropping him to the ground riving in pain. Both Cloud runners scored on the play and King laid on the ground for five minutes as trainers tried to stop the bleeding from the impact. He was able to leave on his own power as Keenan Hall took over for him on the mound with the score 3-0. Cloud added to their lead in the 5th, scoring three times on just two hits as they took advantage of three walks and a hit by pitch to take a 6-0 lead. The Saints had a chance to get back into it in their final at bats in the 7th as they put two on with one out for the middle of their order, but once again couldnít push anything across as they left the runners stranded to end the game in a 6-0 shutout loss.

Cloud starter Steven Federau dominated the Saints in the contest despite coming into the game with an 0-6 record and holding a 7.54 ERA. Federau went the distance, pitching around 6 hits and 6 walks to post the shutout while striking out a season high 7 to get the win. King took the loss for Seward, lasting 3 2/3 innings and giving up 3 runs on 4 hits before exiting due to the injury. The Saints had just 6 hits in the game, 2 each from Fuller, Allen, and Griffith was it. The middle of the Seward order, from 3-7 combined to go 0-13 in the loss.

SEWARD COUNTY/CLOUD COUNTY GAME TWO BOX SCORE

With the Saints splitting and Garden City sweeping Dodge City in their double header, Seward was now behind the eight ball, down a game with just two to play on the final day of the conference season. Needing a big time performance on the mound in game three of the series, the Saints handed the ball to freshman lefty Hayden Howard who has been lights out for Seward during April. After 1-2-3 innings on both sides in the 1st, the Saints were the first to score in the 2nd as they loaded the bases with nobody out thanks to a single from Owen, a walk to Scanlan, and a single by Marshall to set the table for Griffith. The Saints leading hitter took advantage of the situation, something missing on day one of the series for Seward, lining an 0-1 pitch through the left side to score two and give Seward an early 2-0 lead. A groundout from Reed Thompson gave the Saints another tally and after an inning and a half it was 3-0 Seward. Howard barreled through the Cloud bats in the bottom of the 2nd, throwing 14 pitches, 11 strikes to retire the T-Birds in order to keep the Saints on top. A solo home run from Owen gave the Saints a 4-0 lead in the 3rd and Cloud got their first baserunner of the game on a one out error in the bottom of the inning before Howard erased him with a pickoff at first followed by a groundout to get out of the inning unharmed. Griffith and Thompson were hit by pitches back to back with one out in the top half of the 4th for the Saints and Lewis came through with a single on a 1-2 pitch to score Griffith to give the Saints an insurance run to make it 5-0. Howard continued to cruise through the 4th, needing just 5 pitches to get a pair of groundouts and a strikeout to put the Saints back at the plate. Seward put two on and got to the T-Birds bullpen in the 5th but couldnít score, but the way Howard was dealing it didnít matter. He again retired Cloud County in order in the 5th and still had not allowed a hit through 5. The Seward half of the 6th started slow with a pair of strikeouts, but a single by Fuller and a walk to Allen put them in business with two outs. Nelson took the opportunity to split the gap with a double to score both runs and the Saints were up comfortably 7-0. The T-Birds broke up Howardís no-hit bid with a one out single in the 6th, but it didnít faze the Saints starter as he struck out the next two hitters to keep his shutout intact and the Saints in front 7-0. Cloud reliever Taylor Keller could not find the strikezone as he came out of the bullpen to face the Saints in the 7th. He walked the first three Seward hitters, throwing just two strikes in the process to load the bases with nobody out. With a chance to really open up the lead, this time the Saints couldnít come through. A ground ball double play made two outs in the inning and a groundout behind that ended the threat without Seward scoring. While the runs would have looked nice on the scoreboard, they certainly werenít needed with the way that Howard was throwing the ball. The southpaw notched his sixth 1-2-3 inning of the game in the bottom of the 7th to close the game out and give the Saints the 7-0 win.

Howard allowed just the 6th inning single to Cloud in the 1 hit shutout victory. He did not walk a batter and he struck out 8 T-Bird hitters to earn his 5th consecutive win. Howard has now thrown four straight complete games and is 5-0 in his last five starts. In that five start span, opponents are hitting just .200 against him and he has posted a 1.04 ERA. The Saints were much better offensively in game three, putting together 9 hits as a team, led by Nelson who was 2 for 4 with 2 RBIís and had Sewardís only extra base hit of the game with a double. Owen was also 2 for 4 in the middle of the Saints order, scoring 2 runs and driving home another. Griffith was 1 for 2 with 2 RBIís and also walked and was hit by a pitch in the game.

SEWARD COUNTY/CLOUD COUNTY GAME THREE BOX SCORE

The Saints wasted little time in taking the lead in the series finale as it was just six pitches into the game when Allen went deep for a solo shot to put the Saints up 1-0. Seward was forced to change plans on the mound just one batter into the game as TJ Looney left with discomfort in his arm and the Saints had to call on the emergency services of Adam Guay who would turn in a performance for the ages. After springing to duty, Guay left a runner stranded in the 1st and the Saints left two of their own stranded in the top of the 2nd. Guay dealt a 1-2-3 bottom of the 2nd for the Saints and worked around an error in the 3rd, striking out the side to keep Seward in front 1-0. The Saints again had a chance to build on their lead in the 4th as Scanlan singled and Griffith walked to start their half of the inning, but Seward could get nothing done after that as they left the two stranded to keep it a 1-0 game. Guay got three first pitch outs in the 4th to quickly get the Saints back in the dugout and hitting. A Cloud error helped extend the Saints half of the inning with two outs and this time they capitalized as Scanlan continued his big series with an RBI single to bring a run home to make it 2-0 Seward. Guay continued to keep the T-Birds in check in the 5th and the Saints again used a T-Birds defensive mistake to help jumpstart their offense as Diego Cruz reached on an error to get the inning going and Fuller hit the first pitch he saw just over the left field fence for the first home run of his career to put the Saints in front 4-0. Cloud had their real offensive chance of the game in the bottom of the 6th, drawing a walk to start the inning and getting a single to put two on and no out in the frame. A pop out on the infield gave the Saints their first out of the inning and a double play on a fly ball got Seward out of the inning to keep it a 4-0 game. Guay kept it a 4-0 contest after 7 and the Saints offense blew the game open in the top of the 8th. With two outs Nelson singled home Cruz who doubled to start the inning and Owen smoked a double to drive home he and Allen to make it 7-0. Seward kept their two out magic going as Scanlan drove home Owen with an RBI single to make it 8-0 and after a Griffith double Francisco Bolanos came through with a single to score two more to make it 10-0 Seward. Guay labored in the bottom of the 8th, needing 24 pitches to get through the inning, but he finished strong, getting a pair of strikeouts to end the frame and in turn kick in the run rule as the Saints won in the shortened game 10-0.

Guay was spectacular in the win, going 8 shutout innings in emergency relief, allowing just 2 hits while striking out a career high 7 to earn his second win of the season. The Saints offense helped its fair share as well in the win, outhitting Cloud 14-2 in the game. Scanlan had another multi-hit game for Seward, going 3 for 5 with 2 RBIís while Griffith was a perfect 3 for 3 and Allen was 3 for 4 with 3 runs scored.

SEWARD COUNTY/CLOUD COUNTY GAME FOUR BOX SCORE

The wins meant that Seward now at least had a shot at the Jayhawk West title, needing help from Dodge City against Garden City who played after the Saints and T-Birds games were complete. Seward got that help in the way of a 9-5 win from the Conqs in game three of their series to give Seward a share of the Jayhawk West crown and it wasnít looking good for the Saints to win that title outright as Garden City led 5-0 in the bottom of the 9th of game four of the series. However, as fate had it, Dodge City scored 5 times in the bottom of the 9th to send the game to extra innings and then again in the 10th to win the game and give the Saints the Jayhawk West Conference Championship all to themselves.

The series win pushes Seward to 29-26 overall on the season while the Saints finish the Jayhawk West Conference season at 21-11 and on top. Seward earns their 10th Jayhawk West title in the past 13 years and their 14th in the past 19 seasons. Seward is now the #1 seed for the Region VI Tournament and will open tournament play at home on Saturday at 1:00 against the #8 seed from the East which is yet to be determined.

The Saints will wrap up their regular season with a non-conference game against their new friends from Dodge City on Tuesday at 4:00 at Brent Gould Field.