BLUE DRAGONS, SAINTS LOCK UP IN CENTRAL DISTRICT OPENER ON FRIDAY
The Jayhawk West champion Hutchinson Community College baseball team continues its bid for a fourth postseason championship when the Blue Dragons open the Central District (Region VI) Tournament on Friday at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in Wichita.
The Blue Dragons (42-15) play in the fourth and final opening-round with a familiar opponent in Jayhawk West rival Seward County (31-27). Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.
All Hutchinson games will be videostreamed live on the Blue Dragon Sports Network. (www.bluedragonsports.com). Airtime on Friday at 6:45 p.m.
Daily admission will be $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 6 through high school and participating school students with college ID. Children under 5 years old are free.
FRIDAY'S OPENING-ROUND MATCHUPS
10 p.m. - Johnson County (44-11) vs. Kansas City (36-20)
1 p.m. - Coffeyville (38-16) vs. Garden City (36-21)
4 p.m. - Cowley (36-15) vs. Butler (36-21)
7 p.m. - Hutchinson (42-15) vs. Seward County (31-27)
The tournament is an eight-team, double-elimination tournament.
DRAGONS PLAY ON SATURDAY AT
If Hutchinson wins, the Blue Dragons will play either Cowley or Butler at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
The Hutch-Seward loser plays the Cowley/Butler loser at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
BLUE DRAGON PITCHING PROBABLES
The probable pitching matchups for the Hutchinson-Allen series are:
Game 1 on Friday: Hutchinson - Kyle Simonds, RHP, So. (12-0, 2.00 ERA).
Game 2 on Saturday: Hutchinson - Zach Wilson, LHP, R-Fr. (4-1, 4.40 ERA)
Blue Dragon skipper Ryan Schmidt is in his second season in the HCC dugout. After a 22-30 first campaign with the Blue Dragons, Schmidt guided his 2014 team to a 40-win season and a Jayhawk West championship. Schmidt is 64-45 at Hutchinson and has a career record of 171-214 in his seventh season (five seasons at Pratt CC).
The Blue Dragons will be facing an NJCAA Hall of Fame coach for the second-straight week, this time against Seward County's Galen McSpadden, who is in his 33rd season at Seward County. McSpadden has compiled a record of 1,130-647.
BLUE DRAGON SEASON RECAP
The 2014 Blue Dragons roared out of the chute this season, earning a three-game road series sweep of Rose State to open the year. The Blue Dragons won 8 of their first 10, 15 of their first 20 and after a Jayhawk West series win over Cloud County, HCC baseball climbed as high as No. 8 in the NJCAA Division I National poll.
The Blue Dragons are now 42-15 overall record. They won the Jayhawk West with a 23-9 record, two games ahead of runner-up Garden City. The Blue Dragons won seven of eight Jayhawk West series this season, earning the first-ever sweep of perennial Jayhawk West power Seward County along the way. The only team to trip up the Blue Dragons was Butler - The Grizzlies took 3 of 4 for HCC April 11-13.
The Blue Dragons have put together one of the most prolific offenses in program history, entering play this weekend with a .313 team batting average. Averaging 8.1 runs per game this season, HCC has scored 464 runs, which is fourth most in program history. HCC's 557 hits are sixth most in team history, the 121 doubles tie for third most, 18 triples are tied for eighth most and the 47 home runs are nine most in team history.
Jake Schleppenbach is hitting a team-high .403 with nine homers and 54 RBIs. Gabe Wurth is hitting .380 and Matt Jones is hitting .368. Jones has a team-high 10 home runs. Bennett Oliver has a team-high 55 RBIs.
Hutchinson ranks fifth in the NJCAA in runs scored, third in runs batted in and sixth in home runs.
The Blue Dragon pitching staff has an aggregate 4.19 team ERA. HCC pitchers have authored 11 complete games and six shutouts.
Kyle Simonds is 12-0 with a 2.00 ERA with a school-record 96 strikeouts. Dakota Shadoan has eight saves.
SAINTS' SEASON RECAP
A perennial power in the Jayhawk West forever, the Saints finished fifth in the league this season with a 16-16 record.
Seward County is hitting .341 as a team and is averaging 8.2 runs per game. The Saints have two starters hitting better than .400 and another on the cusp of the .400 mark. Brent Williams is hitting .414 with 59 hits, seven home runs and 66 RBIs. Kevin Connolly is hitting g.411 with two homers and 50 RBIs. Bryson Allen is hitting .392 with six homers and 43 runs driven in.
The Saints have a 6.16 team ERA this season. J.B. Olsen is 7-2 with a 1.71 ERA with five complete games and two shutouts. Over 79 innings pitched, Olsen has 71 strikeouts and just seven walks. Adam Guay has five saves and an ERA of 5.88
HOW DID THEY GET TO WICHITA
The Blue Dragons advanced to Wichita for the first time since 2010 with a sweep of the Allen Red Devils last Saturday at Hobart-Detter Field.
Kyle Simonds threw a five-hit shutout with a career-high 13 strikeouts in a 3-0 victory in Game 1.
Game 2 was a scoreless tie through six innings. After Allen scored a run in the top of the seventh, the Blue Dragons rallied, tying the game with a bases-loaded walk to Jake Bublitz and took a 2-1 lead on a bases-loaded hit by pitch to Matt Jones. Matt Sutliffe added a two-run single in the seventh for a 4-1 series victory.
The Saints went on the road to Chanute to take on Neosho County in one of two opening-round series that went three games. Seward County needed 10 innings to win Game 1 9-8 and had a sweep within its grasp, but Neosho County rallied for a 5-4 walkoff victory in Game 2. The Saints dominated the decisive Game 3 with a 12-2 mercy-rule victory in seven innings.
DRAGONS SWEPT SEWARD COUNTY IN MARCH
Starting with a two-hit shutout in the series opener by Kyle Simonds, the Blue Dragons earned their first-ever sweep of Seward County on March 22-23 at Hobart-Detter Field.
Simonds needed just 69 pitches in striking out eight as HCC won the opener 5-0.
HCC won the second game 5-4 on a Jake Schleppenbach walk-off sacrifice play to score Bennett Oliver.
The Blue Dragons took advantage of a Seward County error and Zack Wilson pitched out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam with in the sixth with three-straight strikeouts for a 5-4 victory.
The Dragons jumped out to a 10-1 lead in the series finale and held on for an 18-13 victory. Jake Schleppenbach had three hits while Oliver drove in five runs. Schleppenbach, Jordan Schroer and Bublitz had three RBIs each.
HCC-SEWARD PLAYOFF HISTORY
Since Region VI went to this current playoff format in 2004 - from 2010-12 the format was four four-team regionals and a four-team super regional - Hutchinson and Seward County have met three times.
In 2006, the Dragons and Saints met in the Region VI opening-round in Wichita. Seward County outlasted the Dragons 7-6 in 14 innings.
The two teams met in the 2009 tournament opener and the Saints once again prevailed 5-4.
Then came the 2010 Region VI championship game. HCC, as the only remaining unbeaten team, look a 6-2 lead into the ninth inning. The Saints rallied with four runs in the ninth to force extra innings. In the 12th, Andrew Dixon singled home Dan Klein and later scored. Morgan Cirbo worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the 12th to close out an 8-6 win and send HCC to Grand Junction.
2014 BLUE DRAGONS REACH 40 WIN-PLATEAU
With a pair of victories over Allen in the Central District opener last week, the Blue Dragons reached 42 wins. The 2014 Blue Dragons now have the fifth-most wins in team history.
This is the seventh time in the 40-year history of the program - Hutchinson has an overall baseball record of 1,140-737-1 - to reach 40 wins in a season.
The 2002 Blue Dragons won a record 47 games. The 2000 team won 45, followed by 2006 (44) and 1999 (43).