Freshman Griffin Everitt hit the biggest home run of his young collegiate baseball career Saturday, a game-winning blast in the bottom of the 11th inning that gave Kansas City Kansas Community College a walk-off 6-5 win and a sweep of Neosho County. The Blue Devils rode freshman Oswaldo Mendez’ 4-hit pitching gem to a 9-1 win in the 7-inning opener.
The sweep improved the Blue Devils’ record in Jayhawk Conference play to 17-3 and set up the biggest four-game series of the season to date. Johnson County and Cowley County share the conference lead at 14-2 with JCCC coming to KCKCC Thursday at 1 p.m. At Rockhurst JV Monday at 5 p.m., the Blue Devils then wrap up conference play with a four-game set with Cowley the following week and Coffeyville April 25-27.
“A no doubter; a great way to end an exciting series,” said KCKCC Coach Matt Goldbeck of Everitt’s game-winning shot to left-center to win the 6-5 nightcap. It was the second homer of the season and third hit of the game for Everitt, a catcher from Lincoln, Neb., and ended what had been a frustrating final four innings for the Blue Devils. Neosho tied the game with three unearned runs in the eighth and the Blue Devils left runners in scoring position in the 7th, 9th and 10th innings before Everitt’s blast.
The home run rewarded freshman Gaby Ramos with his third win in a standout relief performance. In 3 1/3 innings of relief, Ramos (3-2) retired 10 of the final 11 hitters he faced, seven on strikeouts in his longest stint of the season. “Gaby was really good,” said Goldback.
The Blue Devils banged out 16 hits including three each by Traice Hartter, Eduardo Acosta and Everitt but left 16 runners on base. Tyler Henry added two hits and Kevin Santiago doubled.
KCKCC manufactured a run in the second inning. Everitt singled, took second on Bednar’s sacrifice, third on a passed ball and scored on Harrison;s squeeze bunt that went for a hit. Acosta made it 2-0 in the fifth with a home run and the Blue Devils opened a 5-0 lead with three runs in the sixth. Hartter had the big blow, a two-run single after a single by Henry, walk and Bednar’s bunt single.
Victor Gotay blanked the Panthers on four hits through six innings, striking out nine and walking three but Neosho scored twice on three hits off Jose Amaro in the seventh. Matt Fred allowed one hit and walked one in the eighth but a pair of errors enabled Neosho to pull even 5-5 before Ramos’ big finish.
Home runs by Santiago, Henry and Jose Sosa and two early run-scoring doubles by Acosta highlighted a 13-hit KCKCC attack in support of Mendez’ pitching jewel in the 9-1 opener. Other than a monster home run off a tree in left field by Neosho’s Brant Scrivner in the third inning, Mendez (5-1) was in complete command. No other runner got past first base as he allowed four hits, walked two and fanned six.
Acosta provided KCKCC with the early lead, doubling in Harrison for a 1-0 lead in the second and then driving in two more runs with his second double in the third. Santiago started the inning with a solo home run and Sosa singled and Henry doubled to set up Acosta’s hit. The Blue Devils added three more runs in the fourth on just two hits, a single by Sosa and Henry’s second double and then got long home runs from Sosa and Henry in the sixth. It was the fourth for each.
“Our starters were outstanding all weekend, shutting down a good team,” said Goldbeck. “Victor Gotay pitched great. It’s tough taking a pitcher out when he hasn’t allowed a run but we have to look at protecting their arms with around 100 pitches and we have good relief guys. It was the second time in two days I had to pry the ball away from a starter. Carlos Soto (5-1) gave up one run Friday and really wanted to stay in the game. Our starters are all super competitive and they want to finish what they start.”
Kansas City Kansas Community College’s Blue Devils felt they let a win get away when Fort Scott rallied for an extra inning decision last Wednesday. The Blue Devils got one back Sunday.
Freshman Tyler Henry belted a dramatic game-tying 3-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning and then doubled in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth for a 4-3 win over the Greyhounds. KCKCC then completed the sweep, riding Victor Gotay’s pitching gem to a 4-1 nightcap win.
The winningest team in the Jayhawk Conference at 14-2, the Blue Devils trail Johnson County (10-0) and Cowley (11-1) at the halfway point of the conference season. KCKCC (25-7) hosts Maple Woods in a twin bill Tuesday at 1 p.m. Originally scheduled to be played at Maple Woods, KCKCC will be the visiting team. The Blue Devils resume Jayhawk play Thursday at Neosho County.
KCKCC had only one hit, a leadoff single by Traice Hartter, going into the seventh inning of the opener against Fort Scott’s Raine Richter, who had retired 15 hitters in a row when Jose Sosa ended the streak with a one-out double. Kemper Bednar drew a walk and Henry greeted relief ace Brayden Leathers with a game-tying 3-run shot to left. Sosa also started KCKCC’s game-winning ninth with a single and after Bednar grounded into a force out at second, Henry hit a game-ending drive into the gap in left-center with Bednar scoring easily on the hit.
For Henry, an outfielder from Gardner-Edgerton, it was the biggest game of his career, high school or college. “I was just hoping it would not go foul,” said Henry of the home run. He had no doubts on the game-winning double.
“Their pitcher was really tough on us and then they brought in their closer who had been lights out,” said KCKCC Coach Matt Goldbeck. “Sosa had a big hit and Bednar a good at bat in drawing a walk and bringing the tying run to the plate. Henry was down 0-2 and took some tough breaking balls to fight back to a 3-2 count and then hit a big-time home run.”
Sophomore Osvaldo Mendez had a shutout for five innings before Fort Scott broke the scoreless tie, taking a 1-0 lead in the sixth on three consecutive singles. The Greyhounds made it 3-0 in the seventh, scoring the two runs on four hits off reliever Gaby Ramos before Ramos retired the final seven Greyhounds to come to bat. “Mendez pitched very well,” said Goldback of the freshmen lefthander who struck out seven and walked none. “Fort Scott is one of the more offensive teams in the conference; an outstanding job in holding them to one run.”
Gotay, a sophomore from Kissimmee, Fla., was superb in the nightcap, allowing just three hits, striking out eight and walking none. Only four Greyhounds reached base against Gotay, who was backed by two double plays. He left only one runner on base. The lone run came in the fourth inning, a home run by Owen Wilson.
By then the Blue Devils had built a 4-0 lead with Henry again providing big hits. Hartter led off the KCKCC first with a double and scored on an error and Henry singled in a second run for a 2-0 lead. The Blue Devils made it 4-0 in the third on a double by Kevin Santiago, single by Sosa, sacrifice fly by Bednar and Henry’s double.
“Gotay pitched his best game in two years; no walks,” Goldbeck said. “Our catcher (Griffin Everitt) came to us before the game and said we needed to pitch off his breaking ball and he threw more than in any other game by any of our pitchers. A complete game win against Fort Scott is special. To have two of them in four games is really something and something that Coach (Pedro) Leon, who works with the pitchers, should be very proud.”
PHOTO IDENTS (henry’s big day)
There was much hand slapping and fist bumping for KCKCC freshman Tyler Henry Sunday. Henry hit a game-tying 3-run home in the seventh and a game-winning double in the ninth in a 4-3 win over Fort Scott and then drove in two runs in a 4-1 second game win. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)
Just when things looked the gloomiest, Kansas City Kansas Community College launched a two-out comeback for a 7-4 win Monday over Metropolitan Community College-Maple Woods.
The win was the 10th in a row for the Blue Devils (12-5), who return to Jayhawk Conference play this weekend. Originally scheduled for a home doubleheader with Highland Thursday, that twin bill will likely will be moved back to Friday if heavy rains come as forecast. The two teams would also play Highland Sunday at a site to be determined. Highland’s field is currently unplayable.
Five of KCKCC’s seven runs Monday were scored with two out and no one on base, a fact not lost on Coach Matt Goldbeck. “That’s pretty special; the ability to get two-out hits really sustains the offense,” said Goldbeck.
The Blue Devils trailed Metropolitan 4-3 with two out and none on in the bottom of the eighth only to score four times on four hits. After singles by Griffin Elliott and pinch-hitter Kevin Santiago and a walk loaded the bases, Traice Harter put the Blue Devils ahead 5-4 with a two-run double and Eric Hinostroza added two more runs with a two-run single. “A very big hit by Harter,” said Goldbeck.
The rally made a pitching winner out of freshman Gaby Ramos, who gave up a leadoff home run to Cole Nichols to start the eighth inning but then retired the Wolves in order the final two innings. Ramos’ finish capped another outstanding performance by KCKCC freshmen relief pitchers, who combined to allow just one hit and one run in five innings, walking three and striking out four.
Jake Martin pitched two hitless innings, striking out two and walking two, and Phillip Bryant walked one, struck out one in a hitless seventh inning. Matt Fred worked the first four innings, allowing three runs on six hits. He struck out six and walked two. “Our relief guys really did a good job, especially considering the circumstances,” said Goldbeck, “Both Martin and Bryant were making their first appearances after being injured and it was the first game of the season for Ramos.”
Held without a hit through three innings, the Blue Devils finally broke through with two runs with one out in the fourth. Brady Hoover drove in both with a double after a double by Tyler Henry and a single by Kemper Bednar put runners on second and third. KCKCC tied it 3-3 with an unearned run in the seventh. With two out, Harter singled, took second on an error and scored on Jose Sosa’s single. Harter finished the day with three hits.
PHOTO IDENT (Holder fielding)
Third baseman Brady Holder, whose two-run double opened KCKCC’s scoring in the fourth inning, charges a ground ball in the Blue Devils’ come-from-behind 7-4 win over State Fair Monday. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)
It’s an old baseball axiom you can never have too much pitching but Kansas City Kansas Community College’s baseball team will go into Jayhawk Conference play with its most experienced staff in recent years.
Three sophomores who combined to start 34 games last year head a deep and promising mound staff to go along with an experienced infield. “The strength of this team should be our pitching staff,” says fourth year head coach Matt Goldbeck. “We have a lot of quality arms and ‘plus stuff’ as a staff. If we can throw strikes, I think we’ll be able to pitch and play defense.”
Kept inside by this year’s snow, ice and cold, the Blue Devils finally get outside this weekend with a five-game spring trip to the Dallas area where they’ll face Eastfield in doubleheaders Friday and Saturday and Brookhaven in a single game Sunday. The home opener will come Saturday, Feb. 23, when the Blue Devils host State Fair in a twin bill.
Goldbeck will build his pitching staff around three sophomore righthanders from Florida – Orlando Ortiz and Victor Gotay, both of Miami Beach; and Carlos Soto of Kissimmee. All were in the starting rotation a year ago when the Blue Devils finished 34-26.
Gotay was 3-3 with a 3.94 earned run average in 10 starts; Soto 4-7 with a 5.05 ERA in 11 starts; and Ortiz 3-6 and a 6.06 ERA in 13 starts. Ortiz struck out 91 in 69 innings but also surrendered 65 walks. Soto had 52 strikeouts in 66 innings and Gotay 42 strikeouts in 45 innings. Each gave up 30 walks.
Osvaldo Mendez, a freshman lefthander from Carolina, Puerto Rico, is expected to fill the fourth spot in the starting rotation with Matt Fred, a freshman righthander from Saint Mary, KS., slated to start in this weekend’s fifth game in Texas. Sophomore lefthander Hunter Paxton of Mill Valley, who was 3-1 in five starts last season, will also see starting duty along with soph Maxwell Storch of Olathe South and freshmen Jose Amaro and Zavier Morin of Gardner-Atchison.
The relief corps will be built around a corps of three freshmen – righthanders Phillip Bryant of Little Rock, Ark., and Gabriel Ramos of Deltona, Fla., and southpaw Jake Martin of Aurora, Colo.
Kevin Santiago returns to lead the offense. A sophomore from Puerto Rico, Santiago led the Blue Devils with 11 home runs, 63 runs-batted-in and a .713 slugging percentage while hitting .386 in a banner freshman season. “We’re counting on him for a big year,” says Goldbeck.
Santiago will be joined on the infield by Eric Hinostroza of Shawnee at first, Trace Harter of Topeka Seaman at second and Kemper Bednar of Saint James at third. All are sophomores but only Bednar saw action last year, hitting .250 in 20 games. Harter is a transfer from Johnson County while Hinostroza is a former Blue Devil returning from military duty.
Three freshmen have won the starting outfield spots – Tyler Henry of Gardner-Edgerton in left, Eduardo Acosta of Puerto Rico in center and Matt Schrick of Atchison in right. Sophomore Brady Holder of Kearney and freshmen Jose Soto of Kissimmee, Trey Hoover of Maryville, Mo., and Kaleb Harrison of Neola, Iowa, will vie for the role of designated hitter as well as infield and outfield duties.
Catching will be another strength. Sophomore J.T. Goodfellow of Broken Arrow, Okla, who caught 30 games last season, will be joined by freshman Griffin Everett of Lincoln, Neb.
“Offensively, this is going to be a team that will try to put pressure on the defense by stealing bases, bunting for hits and using the hit-and-run, all the little things,” says Goldbeck. “Santiago, Henry and Schrick will provide some power.” Goldbeck is being assisted by veterans Bill Sharp, Dean Long and Ryne McDonald and newcomers Andrew Kreiling and Pedro Leon. All but Leon are former Blue Devils.
The Blue Devils have been tabbed for fifth place in the Jayhawk Conference behind Cowley, which is ranked No. 6 in the NJCAA preseason poll; Neosho County, Johnson County and Fort Scott. The Blue Devils will play a 32-game Jayhawk schedule, four-game series with each other league member rotating on a home-and-home basis on Thursdays and Saturdays.