BLUE DRAGONS SURVIVE SAINTS' RALLY IN REGION VI OPENER
WICHITA - In the latest wild finish between the two Jayhawk West rivals, the Hutchinson Community College baseball team outlasted a four-run Seward County ninth-inning rally to advance in the NJCAA Region VI/Central District Tournament on Friday at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
Nineteenth-ranked Hutchinson defeated Seward County in Friday's fourth opening-round game 8-7, in the Blue Dragons' first postseason appearance in Wichita since winning the 2010 Region VI Tournament championship.
The Blue Dragons (43-15) will next play Cowley in the winner's bracket semifinals at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Blue Dragon starting pitcher Kyle Simonds earned the victory to up his season record to 13-0, but he lasted only six innings. By the time the ninth inning rolled around, HCC led 8-3 after scoring seven unanswered runs to erase an early 3-1 lead.
Reminiscent of the 2010 Region VI championship game - HCC lost a 6-2 ninth-inning lead but won 8-6 in 12 innings - and a March 23 game at Hobart-Detter Fielder were Hutch led 10-1 and wound up winning 15-11 - the resilient Saints made things more than interesting in the ninth on Friday night.
The first five Saints batters of the ninth reached against Blue Dragon closer Dakota Shadoan, who entered the game with one out in the eighth and worked out spot where Seward had runners at second and third with one out - the tying run at second - and came away empty.
Pinch hitter Brandon Urquizio slammed a two-run double to left center field to cut the lead to 8-5. Mason Marshall then had an RBI double to pull the Saints within 8-6. Seward had runners on second and third with no out at that point. Shadoan struck out Jacob Fuller for the first out and got Reed Thompson to fly out to left, which plated Urquizio with the fourth run of the inning, pulling the Saints within 8-7.
Shadoan picked up his ninth save - his second of the postseason - by getting Bryson Allen to fly out to left field to end the game.
In the ninth innings of their last four games played at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium - Friday's game and the three games of the 2010 Region VI Tournament - The Blue Dragons have allowed a total of 14 ninth-inning runs in those four games, yet HCC has won all four games.
Simonds pitched six innings, getting stronger as the game progressed, retiring eight batters in a rule and 9 of the final 10 he faced. Throwing 115 pitches, Simonds allowed nine hits, three runs, two earned runs while striking out seven and walking two.
Austin Harms, Tyler Coufal and Shadoan pitched in relief for the Blue Dragons.
Seward County starter J.B. Olsen had HCC scrambling for five innings, striking out seven over that span. Overall, the Saints out-hit HCC 16-12.
Shadoan had a huge night offensively going 3 for 4 with two doubles, two RBIs and two runs scored. It was his two-out, two-run double in the sixth that gave HCC a 4-3 lead.
Gabe Wurth went 2 for 3 with two runs scored and scored what turned out to be the game-winning run in the eighth. Bennett Oliver had two hits, including a triple with a run scored and RBI. Jake Ek went 1 for 4 with two RBIs.
After falling behind 3-1 through four innings, the Blue Dragons started to figure Olsen out.
HCC pulled within one when Ek doubled down the left-field line to score Shadoan in the fifth.
Matt Jones and Jake Bublitz led off the HCC sixth with back-to-back walks and were moved up on a Jordan Schroer sacrifice bunt. Two batters later, Shadoan doubled over the head of the Seward left fielder to drive in two and give HCC a 4-3 lead.
Jones added an RBI single that scored Oliver after his triple down the left-field line in the sixth. That gave HCC a 5-3 lead.
The Blue Dragons got what turned out to be huge insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth when Matt Sutliffe and Shadoan led off with singles. Wurth dropped down a sacrifice bunt, the Seward County pitcher Adam Guay's throw to first was wild. Sutliffe and Shadoan both scored on the play and Wurth scored HCC's eighth run on an RBI groundout by Ek. HCC led 8-3 at that point.
GAME NOTES - Four different times on Friday did HCC have the first two batters of an inning reach. HCC scored in three of those four innings. Kyle Simonds extended his season records of wins (13) and strikeouts (103). HCC had three sacrifice bunts, including Jake Eck's team-high 16th of the season. With 43 wins, the 2014 Blue Dragons tie the 1999 Blue Dragons for fourth place on the all-time wins list. For only the seventh time in 58 games did the Blue Dragons go without being hit by a pitch in a game. Gabe Wurth now has six postseason hits.