In years past, a third place finish would assure Kansas City Kansas Community College a first round home playoff berth in the Jayhawk Conference.
Now it's not enough. Under a new playoff format, the first and second place teams in both the East and West Conference will host four-team, double elimination pods with the winners advancing to Salina for the Region VI championship and a berth in the NJCAA DI World Series.
As a result, the Blue Devils will play in the Seward County pod in Liberal Friday, May 14. Seeded No. 6, KCKCC (18-12) will open against No. 11 Cloud County (17-15) at 3 p.m. while No. 2 Seward (20-12) will face No. 14 Neosho County (12-20) at noon. Friday's losers will then play an elimination game at 6 p.m. while the winners will meet Saturday at 1 p.m. Cowley County (27-5) and Johnson County (25-7) finished one-two in the East.
KCKCC wrapped up third place in the East with a 15-5 nightcap win Friday after Coffeyville had handed the Blue Devils a third straight defeat in the opener, 8-3. The Blue Devils finished Jayhawk play with an 18-12 record just ahead of Allen County (18-14) and Coffeyville (17-15). KCKCC will close out its home season Monday, hosting Hesston in a non-conference clash at 2 p.m.
Ray Paniagua had five hits including a grand slam home run and Cole Dawson drove in four runs with a double and two singles as the Blue Devils backed southpaw Trey Simmons and reliever Hunter Cashero with 14 hits to win the 8-inning 15-5 nightcap. Simmons worked five innings, allowing four runs on six hits. He struck out six, walked four. Cashero pitched the final three frames, allowing just one hit and one run, a home run by Trey McClelland who had three on the day.
The Blue Devils jumped in front 4-1 in the first inning of the nightcap on two-out doubles by Dawson and Darius Freeman. Cole Slibowski's home run triggered a 2-run fourth before KCKCC broke the game open with six runs in the fifth highlighted by Paniagua's grand slam. Caleb Brown, Caleb Adams and Dawson also had singles in the inning. Doubles by Paniagua and Dawson closed out the game with one out in a 3-run eighth.
KCKCC led the opener 2-1 through five innings only to have Coffeyville score five runs in to the top of the sixth. McClelland tied the game with a one-out homer and the next five Ravens reached base, four on hits. After giving up back-to-back doubles to start the game, KCKCC's Gabriel Ramos (2-$) allowed only four hits before Coffeyville's sixth inning explosion.
Dawson homered in the second to tie the game but the Blue Devils managed only three other hits – two singles by Adams and double by Slibowski that led to a run in the seventh.