The Jayhawk West Champion Seward County Saints opened the 2013 Region VI Playoffs by blowing out the visiting Independence Pirates 12-4 in the first of a best of three series, but game two was much closer for the two teams and it took a bottom of the 9th walkoff hit by Deven Nelson to give the Saints a thrilling 1-0 win to advance to the Region VI Championships in Wichita next weekend. In game one the Saints used an eight run 2nd inning to blow the game open early before going on to win 12-4. In game two it was a classic pitcherís duel as Hayden Howard and Jacob Reid went toe to toe on the mound in a game that was scoreless into the 9th. In the Seward half of the 9th the Saints put two runners on in front of third year sophomore Deven Nelson and the Saints right fielder delivered with a single to left field and after a bang bang play at the plate, the Saints had the only run of the game as the celebration started with a 1-0 victory to send them to the next round.

The #1 overall seed in the tournament, the Seward County Saints sent their ace Tyler Wiedenfeld to the mound in the first game of a best of three series with the #16 seed Independence Pirates. In typical Wiedenfeld fashion, it was ground ball after ground ball off the bats of the Pirates early on and the Saints were able to strike first after a pair of scoreless innings for Wiedenfeld to start the game. Alex Scanlan led off the Saints 2nd with a double down the left field line to get things going and a single by Johnny Griffith put runners on the corners with nobody out. A sacrifice fly from Reed Thompson scored Scanlan to give the Saints a 1-0 lead and later in the inning an Independence error allowed Griffith to score to make it 2-0. Wiedenfeld breezed through the Pirate lineup in the 3rd and the Saints blew the game open in their half of the frame. After back to back singles from Deven Nelson and Troy Owen to start the inning, Mason Marshall stung a line drive up the middle that hit second base umpire Tony Vega and loaded the bases with nobody out. Scanlan then picked up his second hit of the game to drive home Nelson and Griffith doubled to the gap to score Owen and Marshall to make it a 5-0 game. A dropped fly ball on the infield from the Pirates allowed another run to score and three straight hits from Jake Fuller, Bryson Allen, and Nelsonís second hit of the inning plated three more runs as Seward blew it open 9-0. Independenceís second error of the inning extended the Saints lead to 10-0 before the Pirates were finally able to find two outs to get out of the inning. In a groove, Wiedenfeld needed just nine pitches to pick up three ground ball outs in the 4th and another 1-2-3 frame in the 5th allowed Seward to push their lead to 11-0 in the bottom half of the inning. Independence finally got on the scoreboard in the 6th after a leadoff double and a pair of wild pitches to make it 11-1, but the Saints answered in the bottom of the inning, getting three singles and a Pirate error to go back up by 11, 12-1. With the run rule staring them in the eye, Independence showed their first signs of offensive life in the 7th, getting to Wiedenfeld for three runs on three hits and took advantage of a Seward error to cut the Saints lead to 12-4. That is all the Pirates would get as Wiedenfeld pitched into the 8th and Adam Guay came in behind him to finish it out as Seward went on to win 12-4.
The Saints banged out 18 hits in the win as seven of the nine Seward starters had 2 or more hits in the game. Allen and Nelson each finished 3 for 5 with an RBI while Griffith was 2 for 5 with 2 RBIís and 2 runs scored. Wiedenfeld picked up his 11th win of the season to tie him for the National lead in that category as he went 7 1/3 innings, giving up 8 hits and 3 earned runs while striking out 3. Guay finished the contest with 1 2/3 innings of work, allowing just 1 hit and striking out 2.
After 16 runs in the opener, game two was expected to have its fair share of offense as well as the teams threw out their #2 pitchers against each other, for Seward Hayden Howard and for Independence Jacob Reid. It certainly didnít start well for the Pirates in the 1st as Howard blew away a pair of hitters in a 1-2-3 top half of the 1st inning. The Saints looked like they were on track for another big inning as they got three hits and a walk in their half of the 1st, but a double play and a ground ball to end the inning would leave the bases loaded as they went without a run in the 1st. Howard carved another quick inning in the 2nd, facing three batters, striking out two of them to keep the Pirates guessing. Seward put two more runners on in the 2nd but were unable to capitalize on the chance and the game was scoreless through 2. Independence had their first scoring chance of the game in the 3rd as they loaded the bases with two outs, but with their top hitter Brenton Washausen at the plate, Howard got ahead in the count and got Washausen to pop up to end the inning to keep the game 0-0. Once again Seward had traffic on the bases in their half of the 3rd as Nelson was hit by a pitch to start the frame and Scanlan singled with two outs to put runners on the corners. But, like they had in the first two innings, the Saints would be without a tally at the end of the inning as they left two more runners on to make seven after three innings of play. The 4th and 5th innings didnít take much time at all as the only baserunners were a Pirate walk and a Nelson single, both of whom were stranded to keep it scoreless into the 6th. A Seward error jumpstarted Independence in the top of the 6th as they put two runners on with one out, but Howard came up big once again, getting a groundball followed by a strikeout to end the threat and keep the game tied 0-0. Independence did just about the same thing in the bottom of the inning as they committed a two out error in front of a single by Thompson as Seward had two on with one out. Once again though, the Saints couldnít get that big hit and the runners remained on the pillows at the end of the inning and they remained without a run in the contest. Howard was sharp as he pitched into the 7th, getting a groundout on the first pitch of the inning and picked up two straight strikeouts after that to quickly get the Saints back in the dugout. Allen singled for the Saints with one out in the bottom of the 7th and stole second base to put him in scoring position and give the middle of the Saints order two cracks at pushing across the go ahead run. Nelson walked to put runners on first and second, but a great defensive play in the hole by Indy shortstop Derek Hackney started a double play to end the inning and keep the game scoreless. Howard continued to dominate in the 8th, getting a strikeout, a pop out, and a pick off to give the Saints another chance to take the lead, but a two out single was all they could manage as the game remained scoreless into the 9th. As his pitch count rose, Howard got himself into a little bit of a jam with a pair of walks in the top half of the 9th, but with the go ahead run just 90 feet away he battled Matt Higginbotham in a seven pitch at bat before getting him to line out to second base to end the inning. Mr. Dramatic Bret Lewis singled to start the Saints half of the 9th, the first leadoff man to reach for either team since the 4th inning. Fuller laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move him up to second and the Pirates decided to intentionally walk Allen to pitch to Nelson with runners on first and second and one out. Nelson worked his way into a hitters count at 3-1 and drilled the fifth pitch he saw through the hold on the left side of the infield. Saints Head Coach and third base coach Galen McSpadden waived Lewis around from second the whole way and despite a good throw from Denham Morton in left field, Lewis slid around the tag at the plate to score the game winning run to start the celebration. The Saints flew out of their dugout, converging on Lewis at the plate in celebration and then sprinted to congratulate Nelson at first for the game winning hit. When the dust settled the Saints had a 1-0 win and they were winners of the series 2-0 to advance to the Region VI Championships in Wichita.
Howard was certainly the story for the Saints in the win. The freshman lefthander went all 9 innings for the Saints, allowing just 3 hits, all singles, in the shutout. He struck out 12 Independence hitters in the game, a career high for him and the most strikeouts any Seward pitcher has had since the 2008 season when Clemson bound Tomas Cruz had 12 against Butler. The Saints had 11 hits in the game, but were without an extra base hit in the contest. Nelson was a perfect 3 for 3, wrapping up a 6 hit day, and had the only Seward RBI in the game. Lewis was 2 for 4 at the bottom of the Saints order and scored the game winner in the 9th.
The Saints improve to 31-27 with the two game sweep of the Pirates. They advance to the round of eight in Wichita which starts Friday at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium. The Saints will take on the winner of the Butler/Kansas City Kansas series which will conclude today in Kansas City. Game time for Fridayís matchup will be set once all eight teams have qualified for the tournament. Stay tuned to for game time information.
Other teams to qualify for the eight team double elimination championship event are Cowley who swept Cloud County, Neosho County who upset Dodge City, Garden City who swept Johnson County, Colby to needed three games to defeat Highland, and Coffeyville who beat Hutchinson twice.