Kansas City Kansas Community College controls its own destiny in its bid for a first division finish and a home playoff berth but it will take more than a split in doubleheaders.
For the sixth time in eight Jayhawk Conference twin bills, the Blue Devils split a pair of games at home Saturday, winning 2-1 behind the pitching of Carlos Soto but dropping the nightcap 7-6.
The split left the Blue Devils (8-8) in the unique position of having played all the four teams that trail them and an opportunity to knock off the five teams they either trail or are tied with. Fort Scott and Cowley share the Jayhawk lead at 13-3 followed by Neosho County (10-6), Allen County (9-7) and Johnson County and KCKCC, both 8-8.
At Baker University JV in Baldwin Monday at 4 p.m., the Blue Devils (16-12) resume conference play Thursday at Allen County and could vault into fourth place with a sweep. The two teams will then complete their four-game series at KCKCC Saturday at 1 p.m.
A 6-0 freshman righthander from Kissimmee, Fla., Soto allowed just two hits in his best outing of the season in the 2-1 opener. Highland seriously threatened only once, loading the bases with no one out on a single and two hit batsman in the sixth inning. However, Soto got a strikeout, a ground ball to third that scored a run and a fly ball and then retired the Scotties in order in the seventh.
"A great job," said KCKCC Coach Matt Goldbeck. "We've been emphasizing minimizing big scoring innings, not giving up big numbers and Carlos did a great job with the bases loaded – a strikeout, a good play by Brandon Green at third and the fly ball."
KCKCC was held to four hits by Highland southpaw Justin Riechick. The Blue Devils took a 1-0 lead in the first on a hit batsman and two-out single by Brandon Still and then got the winning run in the second on a single by Green, double by Josh Schumacher and an outfield error.
While KCKCC escaped a bases-loaded jam in the opener, Highland twice got out of a bases full jams in the nightcap, the second time in the ninth. Loading the bases with one out on two walks and a James Bradley single, Highland's Chris Giordano induced the Blue Devils' leading hitter, Kevin Santiago, to ground into a game-ending double play. Trailing 7-4 an inning earlier, the Blue Devils had closed the gap to 7-6 on a triple by Santiago and doubles by Gavin Gifford and Brigham Mooney.
The Blue Devils jumped in front 3-0, scoring once in the first on singles by Shumacher and Santiago sandwiched around a Tyler Pittman bunt and added two more in the second on Green's RBI triple and a Rorey Combs' ground ball,. KCKCC loaded the bases on three walks with none out in the fifth but managed only one run on an infield ground ball.
Highland got a pair of unearned runs in the third and then went ahead in the fourth, scoring three times against Victor Gotay, who gave up seven hits and six runs in 4 1/3 innings. Bret Snider came on in relief in the fifth, allowing no hits and one unearned run on a two-out error in 3 2/3 innings before Allan Brown pitched a hitless ninth.
PHOTO IDENT (Play of day No. 1 & No. 2)
KCKCC second baseman Brigham Mooney makes a diving stab of a ground ball and then while lying on the ground, flips the ball to shortstop Kevin Santiago (26) for a force out to help preserve a 2-1 win over Highland Saturday. KCKCC third baseman Brandon Young (3) watches the play. (KCKCC Photos by Alan Hoskins)