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.
Losing a season because of the COVID-19 pandemic was a painful blow to all involved. But even more so to the Kansas City Kansas Community College baseball team.
The Blue Devils had opened Jayhawk Conference play by taking three of four games from perennial power Cowley College, were 4-2 in the league and 14-6 overall when the NJCAA was forced to shut down every 2020 spring sport.
“Everyone was going through the same thing but it felt like we had something special going, especially offensively,” said KCKCC head coach Matt Goldbeck. “It was just sad not to be able see guys like catcher Griffin Everett, who was off to an All-American season and now is at Nebraska, be able to finish the season.”
While Blue Devil sophomores could have returned this spring, several were offered four-year opportunities too good to turn down. Six starters, the entire infield except for third base and two outfielders along with the ace of the pitching staff, are on four-year college rosters right now. “We had seven or eight with 4.0 grade point averages and they had graduated so staying was not in their best interests,” said Goldbeck.
Which has left Goldback with a roster of two sophomores, 15 pandemic freshmen and 17 true freshmen to open the home season Friday, Feb. 26, with a single game against Barton County at 2 p.m. and a doubleheader Saturday at noon.
“The biggest question mark is an unproven offense,” says Goldbeck, who lost his top six hitters from last spring. “Normally we would play 20 fall games. So we did the best thing, work on fundamentals three days and have intra-squad play three days. Our pitching has a little more experience, a little more battle tested.” Returnees accounted for 110 of the 146 innings played last spring.
Goldbeck will build his starting pitching staff around sophomore Gabriel Ramos and second year veterans Parker Weddle, Hunter Cashero, lefthander Tyler Kapraun and newcomer Alan Mercado, a transfer from Florida Southwestern State. “Weddle will be No. 1 followed by Mercado, Ramos and either Cashero or Kapraun,” says Goldbeck. Ramos was 4-0 last spring, striking out 17 and walking 10 in 26 innings while Weddle had a 3.00 earned run average in seven appearances. Cashero made eight appearance while returnees Tre Simmons and Joseph Reyes were both 1-0.
Righthanders Chase Terrell of Bonner Springs and Eli Tormes will head a bullpen that will also include southpaw Logan Barnard of Lansing and righthanders Sebastian Velez, Brett Owen and Steven Santiago. Terrell was 1-1 with a 3.21 ERA in eight games last spring, all in relief.
A pair of true freshmen will share the catching duties, Brayden Vawter of Topeka Seaman and Camden Karlin of Lawrence Free State. “Vawter will probably be the designated hitter when he’s not catching while Karlin is a rare pitcher/catcher,” says Goldbeck. “Either position takes a big toll on the body. Doing both will be demanding and we’re a little thin depth-wise behind the plate so we need to keep him healthy.”
Three starting infield positions are set. Palmer Hutchinson, who hit .269 last spring, will return at third base while Brendyn Bard of Piper will start at first base and Cole Dawson at shortstop. Both are true freshmen. The starting second base job is a toss-up between at quintet of candidates. Cole Slibowski, who hit .273 in 12 games, and Sam Juarez, who batted 286 in 10 contests, are being challenged by true freshmen Beau Grable, Ivan Ortiz and Asnaldo Calcedo.
True sophomore Raymond Paniagua returns in centerfield where he batted .381with only one error last season. He’ll be flanked in leftfield by Pablo Sanchez, a transfer from Wabash, and Caleb Adams of Lansing in right. Adams, who hit .238, had a pair of home runs against Cowley. They’ll be backed Jaylon Johnson, who could also see designated hitting action; and Caleb Troutt of Lansing and Hardy Begman of Basehor-Linwood. Infield backups will include Caleb Brown, Darius Freeman and first basemen Carter McLaughlin and Brock Stewart. Freeman could also see action behind the plate, McLaughlin in the outfield and Stewart on the mound.
“Defensively, our outfield should be a plus and I think we’ll be solid on the infield,” says Goldbeck. “We’ll also have some power but not as much as last spring.”
Veteran Bill Sharp heads the Blue Devils’ staff of assistants that also included Pedro Leon, Preston Bailey and Hector Garcia.
Kansas City Kansas Community College got a great start to the 2020 Jayhawk Conference baseball season Thursday, sweeping a doubleheader from No. 3 ranked Cowley College.
Trailing 5-1, the Blue Devils came from behind for a 6-5 win in the 7-inning opener, then had to beat the setting sun in a 14-8 9-inning win in the nightcap. The sweep of the defending Jayhawk East champions improved KCKCC’s record to 12-3 heading into a return doubleheader with the Tigers Saturday in Arkansas City.
Home runs by freshmen Caleb Adams and Seth Kenagy started the Blue Devils on their comeback in the 6-5 opener. Held to just three hits over the first four innings by southpaw Adam Stephenson, the Blue Devils exploded for three runs in the fifth and then took advantage of Cowley wildness to score the tying and winning runs in the sixth.
An outfielder from Lansing, Adams started the rally with a towering 400-foot home run to center and after a ringing double by Raymond Paniagua, Kenagy homered to almost the same spot in center to cut the deficit to 5-4. A wild pitch on a third strike and back-to-back walks loaded the bases with none out in the sixth. Freshman Palmer Hutchinson tied it with a single into left field and a passed ball scored what proved to be the winning run.
Sophomore lefthander Osvaldo Mendez went the distance for the win, stranding the tying run on third with two out in the seventh. Mendez scattered 11 hits while striking out five and walking two. The Tigers’ big blow was a 3-run home run by Gus Freeman in the fourth inning that broke a 1-1 tie. Cowley took a 1-0 lead on an unearned run in the first but KCKCC quickly tied it on a double by Griffin Everitt and a single by Eduardo Acosta.
Kenagy and Adams also homered in the second game and Jose Sosa drove in runs in four consecutive innings to lead the Blue Devils in the 14-8 second game. The Blue Devils lashed out 16 hits including eight for extra bases. Sosa finished with two doubles and a single and five RBI. Paniagua also had three hits, a triple and two singles while Acosta tripled and singled, Everitt doubled and singled twice; and Trey Hoover doubled.
The Blue Devils had a chance to end the game early as they used a pair of 4-run innings to build a 12-1 lead after five innings only to have Cowley score in each of the final four innings as darkness threatened to push the final inning to Ark City Saturday. “We had guys asking if they needed to make outs on purpose so we could get the game in and not have to finish at Cowley,” said KCKCC Coach Matt Goldbeck.
KCKCC took a 2-0 lead in the first on Sosa’s 2-out, 2-run double and the Blue Devils scored four runs in both the third and fourth innings. After a single by Everitt, Acosta tripled for one run, Sosa and Hoover each doubled in a run and Paniagua singled in the fourth run in the third.
Kenagy led off the fourth with his second home run of the day; Everitt and Sosa both doubled and Hutchinson and Adams singled in the four-run uprising. Kenagy’s second hit was the only hit in a 2-run fifth while Adams homered and Paniagua tripled in a 2-run eighth.
Gaby Ramos held Cowley to just four hits and one run over the first five innings before leaving after giving up two runs in the sixth. He allowed seven hits while striking out four and walking one. Parker Weddle gave up three hits and three runs (one earned) in 1 2/3 innings before Chase Terrell finished up, allowing three hits and two runs in the rush to finish before dark.
With four top hitters returning from last year’s 39-win team, offense should be a Kansas City Kansas Community College baseball strength this spring.
Pitching, however, is another matter. Last season, four pitchers started every Jayhawk Conference game. Only one returns leaving a lot of inexperience but also a wealth of opportunities for a staff of 11 righthanders and five southpaws.
“We probably won’t have last year’s luxury of having four pitchers who started every conference game,” says head coach Matt Goldbeck. “We’re deeper on the mound this year; we just don’t have the dominant arms at the top of the staff we had last year.”
The Blue Devils open the season this weekend with four games in Dallas, Tex. They’ll play Richland in a single game Friday and a doubleheader Saturday and Brookhaven in a single game Sunday before returning home to face Northeast Nebraska in a pair of doubleheaders Feb. 22-23.
Lefthander Osvaldo Mendez, who led the Blue Devils in wins in a 7-3 campaign last year, is the lone pitching returnee. A KJCCC Gold Glove winner, Mendez struck out 66, walked 34 and compiled a 4.26 earned run average in 12 starts. “Mendez will be our No. 1 starter; a real good competitor and hard worker,” says Goldbeck.
Mendez will be joined in the starting rotation by three sophomore righthanders, Gabriel Ramos of Deltona, Fla.; Matt Fred of Saint Mary, Kan.; and Josiah Crowley of Bonner Springs. Ramos compiled a 4-3 record with 33 strikeouts, 11 walks and 5.04 ERA in 14 appearances, all in relief. Fred made six starts, compiling a 2-1 record with 42 strikeouts and 17 walks in 11 appearance; while Crowley made three relief appearances.
A trio of freshmen, Chase Terrell of Bonner Springs; Hunter Cashero of St. James Academy; and Parker Weddle of Park Hill, will head the all-important bullpen. Freshman candidates for starting roles include lefthanders Tyler Kapraun of Peoria, Ill.; and William Simmons of Olathe West; and righthanders Jake Shafter of Grain Valley and Joseph Reyes and Steven Santiago, both of Puerto Rico. Others are southpaws Logan Barnard of Lansing and Mathis Mauldin of Grain Valley and righthanders Kevin Melendez of Kissimmee, Fla., and Nao Fakuda of Auckland, Australia.
A quartet of.300 hitters will provide the core of the offense. Eduardo Acosta, who hit .352 with a .988 fielding average while playing centerfield last year, has been moved to shortstop while power-hitting Jose Sosa is back at first base. Acosta led the team in runs scored with 45 and drove in 36 runs while Sosa led in RBI (43) and doubles (21) while hitting .350.
Tyler Henry of Gardner-Edgerton, who led the Blue Devils in slugging (.613) while hitting .345 with five home runs among 27 extra base hits, will be back in left field. Griffin Everitt of Lincoln, Neb., who has signed with the University of Nebraska for next season, anchors the catching staff. Everitt hit .319 with 19 RBI last season. He’ll be backed by freshmen Michael Edgar of Lee’s Summit and Luis Martinez.
Seth Kenagy, a redshirt freshman from Gower, Mo., who has signed with Central Missouri, will be at second base with freshman Palmer Hutchinson of Hays the starter at third. Zayne Morrow, a freshman from Park Hill, will back up Sosa at first; while Cole Slibowski of St. Joseph, Mo., Kade Chastain of Frontenac and Joey Biggs of Wichita will be the infield backups.
Henry will be joined in the outfield by freshmen Ray Paniagua of Blue Springs and Caleb Adams of Lansing while sophomore Trey Hoover will be the designated hitter and see outfield duty. Hoover hit .278 in 15 games last year. Other outfielders include Sam Juarez of Topeka Seaman and Cooper Cleland of Frontenac.
“I’m excited about this group and the challenge,” says Goldbeck. “With Sosa, Acosta, Henry and Everitt in the middle of the lineup, we should have some power with Kenagy and Paniagua providing some speed. Defensively, we may not have great range but should be solid.”
The key, as always, will be the pitching. “We do have depth but it has to be proven in competition,” says Goldbeck. “Unlike softball where pitchers can throw every day, our best guy will only pitch 12 games in a 56-game schedule. And playing 7 and 9-inning games we have to watch pitch counts and fatigue. The hot topic in baseball is protecting pitchers’ arms and with Tommy John injuries skyrocketing, the starter typically won’t finish the game.” Last season, KCKCC had nine complete games while finishing 39-16 overall.
Third in the Jayhawk with a 23-9 record last year, coaches pegged the Blue Devils for fourth in this year’s pre-season poll. As usual, perennial power and defending champion Cowley College is the pre-season favorite. The Tigers are ranked No. 10 and Johnson County No. 18 in the NJCAA DI preseason poll. JCCC and Fort Scott are also ranked ahead of KCKCC in the KJCCC poll followed by Coffeyville, Neosho County, Allen County, Labette and Highland.
In his fifth season as head coach and 26th season overall, Goldbeck will again be assisted by Bill Sharp, Dean Long, Pedro Leon, Daniel Freeman and Hector Garcia.
Led by head coach Matt Goldbeck, KCKCC’s veteran baseball coaching staff is made up of (from left) Dean Long, Bill Sharp, Goldbeck and Pedro Leon. Goldbeck, Sharp and Long are all former Blue Devil players. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)
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.
Kemper Bednar’s timing could not have been better.
A freshman from St. James Academy, Bednar spent Saturday morning fighting a fever and didn’t arrive at El Dorado’s McDonald Stadium until 30 minutes before game time – just in time to deliver the biggest hit of his young collegiate career, a two-run ninth inning home run that propelled Kansas City Kansas Community College to a playoff-clinching 13-10 win over Butler County.
An opposite field shot to right-center coming after Brigham Mooney had been hit by a pitch, Bednar’s home run was the first of his career and broke a 10-10 deadlock. The Blue Devils added one more run on singles by Gavin Gifford and Adam North and a passed ball and Gifford closed out the win by retiring the final four Grizzlies for the second time in two days.
“It’s a hitter friendly park and the ball just kept carrying and carrying,” said Coach Matt Goldbeck of Bednar’s game-winner. “Out trainer, Jordan Williams, really did a good of getting him ready to play. I was glad we had him.” It was the only hit of the day for Bednar, who had moved into the starting lineup at third base after an injury to sophomore Brandon Green,
Coupled with a 12-11 win on Friday, the win gave the Blue Devils (33-24) a sweep of the best-of-three series and sends them into the 8-team Region VI super-regional starting Friday in Wichita.
Bednar’s home run was KCKCC’s third of the game. Josh Schumacher and Brandon Still also homered with Schumacher finishing with three hits and four runs-batted-in. Gifford also had three hits and Tyler Pittman and North two each as the Blue Devils outhit the Grizzlies 13-9.
KCKCC took a 5-1 lead in the second inning only to trail 8-5 after three innings. The Blue Devils led 1-0 in the first on singles by Pittman and Kevin Santiago and added four more runs in the second, the first three on Schumacher’s 3-run home run to right-center.
Butler cut the lead to 5-4 in the second, scoring three runs on just one hit, and then went ahead in the fourth 9-5 with five unearned runs off KCKCC starter Orlando Ortiz. The big blow was a grand slam home run by shortstop Colby Desville, the Grizzlies No. 9 hitter.
However, Butler would score only one more run the final six innings against Ortiz and three relievers. Ortiz pitched into the sixth inning, allowing seven hits and four earned runs. Southpaw Allan Brown gave up no hits and one run in 1 1/3 innings, and after Julian Rivera had loaded the bases on a hit and two walks in the eighth, Gifford came on to get the final four outs and the win. “I didn’t want to use Gifford because he wouldn’t be available if we had to play Sunday but with the bases loaded, it worked out,” said Goldbeck.
Brandon Still’s home run leading off the seventh finally got KCKCC even 9-9 and the Blue Devils went ahead 10-9 in the eighth when North singled with one out and scored on an outfield error on Schumacher’s third hit of the game. Butler’s tying run in the eighth came on a pair of walks and Jackson Stoule’s two-out single before Gifford came on to leave the bases loaded.
The second place team in the Jayhawk West, Butler finished the season 34-19.
Kansas City Kansas Community College took on one of the Jayhawk Conference’s best Thursday and came away with a pair of come-from-behind wins.
The 7-5, 5-4 sweep of Fort Scott knocked the Greyhounds (17-5) out of a first place tie with Cowley County (19-3) and tightened KCKCC’s hold on fourth place. The Blue Devils are 13-9 and just a game back of third place Johnson County (14-8) heading into two games at Fort Scott Saturday. KCKCC then returns home Tuesday to host Baker University JV in a doubleheader and fifth place Neosho County (11-11) on Thursday. Both twin bills start at 1 p.m.
The Blue Devils trailed 5-2 in the opener before scoring twice in the fifth and three times in the sixth behind the hitting of Kevin Santiago, Brandon Still and Josh Schumacher. A single by Schumacher, a triple by Santiago and a Still double cut the Blue Devil deficit to 5-4 in the fifth.
Aided by a pair of walks, KCKCC tied the game 5-5 in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Tyler Pittman and after a Santiago single, Still scored the game-winners with a two-run double. Still drove in four runs with a double and single; Santiago finished with a single, double and triple; Rorey Combs tripled and singled; and Schumacher singled twice for all of KCKCC’s nine hits.
Sophomore Cole Gacke survived three home runs in running his record to 6-1 in the 7-inning opener. After KCKCC had taken a 2-1 lead in the third on a single by Schumacher, double by Santiago and a Still sacrifice fly, Gacke gave up a solo home run to Sean Moore in the fourth and a solo shot by Ben McConnell and a two-run blast by Andrew Morrow in the fifth. Gacke walked two and struck out seven including three in the seventh.
“A gutsy performance by Cole,” said KCKCC Coach Matt Goldbeck, “He didn’t have his best stuff but he always competes and gives us a chance. Fort Scott has the best hitting team in the conference but our offense just kept answering when they scored. A big hit by Brandon Still and then for Cole to strike out the side in the seventh just shows what kind of competitor he is and how bad he wanted it.”
Late inning triples by Schumacher and Combs rallied the Blue Devils to their 5-4 nightcap win. Trailing 4-3 in the seventh, Schumacher tripled to left-center with his fourth hit of the game and scored the tying run on Pittman’s sacrifice fly off Fort Scott relief ace Kobie Schmitt. Combs then tripled to right-center with one out in the eighth and scored the game-winner on an errant throw on a pickoff attempt at third.
Julian Rivera got the win but only after another standout starting performance by freshman Orlando Ortiz, who allowed just two hits and struck out 13 in 6 1/3 innings. It was the third straight game Ortiz has struck out 10 or more. After giving up two runs in the first on two walks, a hit batsman and the Greyhounds’ only two hits, Ortiz allowed just three base-runners – all on walks – the next five innings.
Oritz left after walking two with one out in the seventh with a 3-2 lead only to have Morrow deliver a two-run triple to right off Rivera with two out. Rivera also gave up a leadoff double in the eighth but then retired six of the next seven hitters.
“To hold Fort Scott to two hits through 6 1/3 innings was outstanding,” said Goldbeck. “Orlando’s Achilles heel was the seven walks, three of which scored. Julian struck out four and other than leaving one pitch up, he was very good. Schumacher had another good game with four hits and Rorey again had the late inning heroics with the triple and scoring the lead run.”
KCKCC scored single runs in the first on a double by Schumacher, bunt single by Pittman and a Santiago ground ball; in the fourth on a single by Brigham Mooney and a double by Gavin Gifford; and in the fifth on a Schumacher single and Santiago double.
PHOTO IDENTS (shu triple)
A head first slide by KCKCC sophomore outfielder Josh Schumacher beats the tag of Fort Scott third baseman Cole Solomon on the triple that set up the tying run in the seventh inning of a 5-4 win Thursday. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)
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)
If Josh Shumacher’s role as leadoff hitter is to lead, he had a heckuva day Tuesday.
A sophomore outfielder from Aurora, Colo., Shumacher lashed three hits, drove in four runs, scored twice and threw out a runner to lead Kansas City Kansas Community College to a 13-3 win over Longview Community College.
The win, the Blue Devils’ fifth in their last six games, lifted their overall record to 14-11 heading into a Jayhawk Conference doubleheader at Highland Thursday. The two teams then close out a four-game series at KCKCC Saturday at 2 p.m.
Shumacher came within a double of hitting for the cycle as he belted a 3-run home run, game-ending triple and a single to pace a 10-hit KCKCC attack. Catcher Adam North of SM South joined in the big assault with four RBI on a bases-loaded double and a single while Kevin Santiago singled and tripled, Gavin Gifford singled twice and James Bradley doubled.
The Blue Devils got their money’s worth out of their 10 hits. Of the 14 Blue Devils reaching base, 13 scored.
Longview took a 1-0 lead on a pair of hits in the first but the Blue Devils quickly went ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the inning. Shumacher led off with a single, Santiago tied it with a triple and scored on Brandon Still’s sacrifice fly. The Blue Devils added a third run in the third on a Brigham Mooney sacrifice fly and then broke the game open with five runs in the fourth.
After an error and a single by Gifford, Julius King’s squeeze bunt scored one run. North singled in another and after a hit batsman, Shumacher launched a 400-foot blast that cleared the fence in centerfield.
The Blue Devils then closed out the win with five runs in the eighth, scoring all five with two out. Singles by Santiago and Gifford and an error loaded the bases before North cleared them with a double. Bailey’s double scored North and Shumacher ended it with a triple.
Freshman Bret Snider made his first pitching start of the season, allowing seven hits including a no doubt two-run home run by Dalton Bearner in the fifth. Snider walked one and struck out two in five innings. Southpaw Hunter Paxton gave up just one hit and struck out three in two innings and Gunner Vestal pitched a hitless eighth inning, striking out two and walking one.
PHOTO IDENT (3 photos)
Shu’s big day….
Josh Shumacher’s big day in leading KCKCC to a 13-3 win over Longview included this 3-run home run, a triple and single and four RBI; a home plate salute of raised helmets from teammates Adam North (33), Brigham Mooney (10), James Bradley and Kevin Santiago (26); and a throw to second baseman Brigham Mooney that cut down Longview’s Clint Jennings trying to stretch a single into a double in the sixth inning. (KCKCC Photos by Alan Hoskins)
With one game already under his belt, third year Kansas City Kansas Community College baseball coach Matt Goldbeck has begun pursuit of a third straight 40-win season – if his squad gets back to full strength..
“We’re waiting for a few guys to get healthy,” says Goldbeck, who may not have at least four possible starters and his No. 1 reliever for the Blue Devils’ 5-game spring trip to the Dallas and Fort Worth area this weekend. The Blue Devils are coming off a 12-10 loss in their season opener against Maple Woods Monday.
Brandon Green, the probable starter at third base; the top two candidates at first base, freshmen Gavin Gifford and Brandon Still; freshman catcher Jared Goodfellow; and sophomore pitchers Maxwell Storch and Julian Rivera are all nursing a variety of injuries or recovering from off-season surgery.
“We can’t use that as an excuse; it’s an opportunity for others to get the chance to play and prove they belong,” says Goldbeck. “There’s going to be plenty of opportunities. No excuses. When someone gets injured, the next guy steps up.”
The Blue Devils finished 40-21 overall and tied for third in the Jayhawk Conference (24-12) last spring but lost virtually their entire starting pitching staff and most of the infield.
The one bright spot for 2018 is the outfield where Josh Schumacher of Aurora, Colo., Tyler Pittman of Blue Springs South and Corey Combs of Truman are all back after big 2017 seasons. Pittman hit .384, drove in 33 runs and stole 35 bases while patrolling centerfield; Schumacher hit .365 and drove in 33 runs in left; and Combs batted .386 with four home runs and 22 RBI primarily as a designated hitter. “We‘re counting on big years from them,” says Goldbeck. “Pittman has game-changing speed; all are big and can run; hard workers and good team leaders who will be at the top of the batting order.”
As it is every season, pitching will be the key. Only three hurlers return, Cole Gacke of Liberty North; Allan Brown, Olathe Northwest; and Rivera of Kissimmee, Fla, A fourth, Max Storch, is sidelined after compiling a 3-0 record in 30 innings last year. Gacke, who was 3-2 in 13 games last season, will be the No. 1 starter; Rivera when healthy the No. 1 closer after posting six saves in 30 games. Brown, who pitched in just eight games last season, will be used mainly in relief.
Joining Gacke in the starting rotation will be a trio of righthanders, Victor Gotay of Kissimmee; Orlando Ortiz, a transfer from Coppin State; and Bret Snider of Liberty North. “Gacke is a great competitor on the mound; the others we’ll have to wait and see,” says Goldbeck. “All three have good arms.”
Brown, sophomore Gunner Vestal of Piper and freshman Carlos Soto of Liberty will head up the long relief corps and spot start. “We’re going to need meaningful innings from them,” says Goldbeck. Ethan Baltz of Lee’s Summit West, Hunter Paxton of Mill Valley and Zach Watson of Pasadena, Tex., also figure in the relief corps along with infielders Brigham Mooney and Gavin Gifford. “Both have good arms and might help if the staff gets short,” says Goldbeck.
A graduate of Blue Springs South, Mooney will start at shortstop after hitting .245 in 24 games last year, while freshman Kevin Santiago of Jayua, Puerto Rico, has the edge over Jason Bradley of St. Louis and Brady Holder of Kearney at second base.
Liberty’s Brandon Green who batted .286 with six home runs and 25 RBI will be at third when healthy. In the meantime, St. James Academy freshman Kemper Bednar will handle the hot corner. With Gavin Gifford of Brighton, Colo., and Brandon Still of Springdale, Ark., both sidelined, redshirt freshman catcher Billy Kelley of Tonganoxie will be at first base.
Adam North, a sophomore from SM South, gets the edge over Kelly and injured freshman Jared Goodfellow of Broken Arrow, Okla., behind the plate. North saw action in 16 games last season. “A good catch and throw guy,” says Goldbeck.
Remington Kelly, a freshman outfielder from Carrollton, Tex., will likely handle the designated hitting duties while freshman Julius King of Antioch, Tenn., heads the outfield backups along with Jacob Jackson of Blue Springs South and Connor White of Coppell, Tex.
After a single game Friday and doubleheaders Saturday and Sunday in Texas, the Blue Devils return home for twin bills with Northeast Nebraska Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 24-25.
Nine weeks of Jayhawk Conference play begins Thursday, March 1, when KCKCC hosts Coffeyville. Each conference team plays home-and-home doubleheaders on Thursdays and Saturdays through April 1 against Cowley, the defending champion and conference favorite.
Bill Sharp again heads the staff of assistant coaches along with former Blue Devils Dean Long, Tanner Foerschler and Ryne McDonald.
It has been said that the saddest words of man and pen were “What might have been.”
So it was for Kansas City Kansas Community College’s 2017 baseball season. “We had a good season but take away five innings and it would have been a great season,” says head coach Matt Goldbeck, whose Blue Devils (41-21) won 40 games for the second straight season.
In Jayhawk East play, the Blue Devils tied for third with a 24-12 record in a season in which they were just 5-10 in one-run decisions. Another five wins and the Blue Devils win the Jayhawk comfortably with a 29-7 record.
Pinpointing five games that got away is pretty easy. Actually, KCKCC’s fate was probably decided in the first series of the season against Cowley College, which would go on to win both the Jayhawk East and Region VI and play in the NJCAA World Series.
After a split in the first two games of a four-game series, Cowley won twice at home, both in extra innings – 7-6 on back-to-back errors in the bottom of the eighth and 5-4 by scoring twice in the bottom of the eighth after KCKCC had gone ahead 4-3 in the top of the eighth. Those two games alone were the difference in KCKCC finishing 26-10 and Cowley 25-11.
Other season changers included a 14-13 loss at Labette in which the Blue Devils had gone ahead 13-11 in the top of the ninth only to have the Cardinals score three runs in the bottom of the inning. At Allen County, KCKCC had a 10-5 lead only to have the Red Devils force extra innings with five runs in the seventh and then win 11-10 in the eighth. And in a rare loss at home, Fort Scott rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh to hand KCKCC a 5-4 setback.
In the final series of the season, KCKCC knocked season-long leader Johnson County out of the championship by winning three of four games but the lone 4-3 loss came as a result of two unearned runs and a walk-off home run in the bottom of the eighth. And even in the super-regional, KCKCC had a 6-5 lead only to have Neosho score single runs in the seventh and eighth to win 7-6.
“On a probability chart, our chances were probably pretty good in those games,” says Goldbeck. “A good season but four or five innings away from a very special season. Our shortstop, L.A. Woodard, missed six of the last eight games and we were 3-3 in those games which hurt. But as a group, this team was resilient in rebounding from tough losses. We also had some games in which we came from behind to win, especially the walk-off win against Garden City in the playoffs. We were real good at home (26-5), the starting pitching was good and we swung the bats pretty well.”
Conference-wise, the Blue Devils won seven four-game series by taking three of four, split with Neosho County and lost three to Cowley. “Extremely proud of this group of players both on and off the field,” said Goldbeck. “They took pride in everything we had them do, from fund-raising and class work to all the hard work they put in on the field.”
Starting pitching was particularly outstanding as four sophomores made every conference start and as a staff the Blue Devils held foes to a .268 batting average. Jake Purl (8-3 with a 4.81 ERA) led in wins and was fifth in the Jayhawk in strikeout (87); southpaw Shea Stephens (6-4, 3.95) finished second in the league in strikeouts with 89; Turner’s Corey Coran finished unbeaten (5-0) and had the low earned-run-average among starters at 3.32; and Chad Cox (4-3, 5.88) pitched 7.1 strong innings in the championship win over Garden City. Freshman Julian Rivera emerged late as the closer, finishing 3-1 with four saves and a 3.60 ERA. Stephens and Cowan were both All-Jayhawk second team selections; Purl and Rivera earned honorable mention.
Offensively, the Blue Devils had a lusty .326 team batting average with seven regulars hitting .300 or better led by first baseman Alex Phillips. KCKCC’s lone All-Jayhawk first team selection, Phillips finished fourth in the conference in both hitting (.418) and RBI (72). He also led the team in home runs (10), extra base hits (32) and slugging (.683). “Anytime you hit .400 in this league, you’ve had a good year,” said Goldbeck.
Outfielder Tyler Pittman, who led the conference in stolen bases with 31, was second in hitting at .383 and was named second team All-Jayhawk along with second baseman Easton Fortuna, who hit .332. Woodard, who was fifth in the league in stolen bases with 25, hit .372 and earned All-Jayhawk honorable mention along with outfielders Josh Schumacher (.365) and Chase Redick (.312), who was second on the team in home runs with seven and RBI with 42.
Rorey Combs, who finished third in hitting a .379, joined Pittman and Schumacher as the only freshmen to hit better than .300. Sophomore catcher Drew Holtgrieve hit. 295 and was third in RBI with 36 while freshman Brandon Green moved into the starting lineup at third midway through the season and hit. 286 with six home runs.
Graduation will hit hard, taking the entire starting pitching staff as well as the entire starting lineup with the exceptions of Pittman, Schumacher and Combs in the outfield and Green at third. On the other hand, 20 promising freshmen are waiting in the wings.
DRAMATIC WOOARD DOUBLE SENDS KCKCC TO SUPER-REGIONAL
Blue Devils (40-19) win in ninth 7-6 after Garden City rallies from 6-2 deficit in eighth
L.A. Woodard may not be able to forecast the future but he delivered with what he envisioned Sunday – a ringing double to the right-centerfield gap that scored Drew Holtgrieve all the way from first base to give Kansas City Kansas Community College a heart-stopping 7-6 Region VI playoff win over Garden City.
“I was visualizing it (the hit) since they scored four runs,” said Woodard, a sophomore shortstop from Nashville, Tenn., who was piled on by jubilant teammates. “It was the place (at bat) I wanted to be. It was the biggest hit of my life, for sure. It was a fast ball (on a 2-2 count) away and I went with it. The last four weeks I’ve been getting doubles and triples with two strikes.”
“L.A. is a game-changing player,” said KCKCC Coach Matt Goldbeck, whose Blue Devils now advance to the opening round of the 8-team super-regional in Wichita Friday that will send the winner to the NJCAA World Series. The Blue Devils will take a 40-19 record into the tourney, Goldbeck’s second 40-win in his two seasons as head coach.
The win came after the Blue Devils had let a 6-2 lead get away in the top of the eighth inning. Capitalizing on three walks, the Broncbusters tied it on a 2-out, 3-run double by Ty Lightly off relief ace Julian Rivera and it took a great throw by leftfielder Josh Schumacher and tag by Holtgrieve at the plate that prevented Garden City from taking a 7-6 lead in the top of the ninth.
It was the second Broncbuster to be thrown out at the plate. Rightfielder Chase Redick cut down Jesse Gonzales with a perfect throw to save a run in the sixth inning. “Chase’s throw was right on the money; Josh’s was up the line a little and he collided with me,” said Holtgrieve, who held onto the ball despite being knocked backwards.
“That play was huge, it really gave me a lift,” said Cam Bednar, who got the win by stranding base-runners in scoring position in both the eighth and ninth innings. Bednar also pitched two scoreless innings in KCKCC’s 13-3 win on Friday.
“This team has been resilient all year long no matter what adversity they might run into,” said Goldbeck. “Julian (Rivera) has been so good all year and the guys picked him up and then Cam Bednar really stepped up and gave us a chance to win. Garden City is a very good baseball team and if it weren’t for a couple of great throws by Chase and Josh it could have easily been different. ”
The Blue Devils also got an outstanding pitching performance from sophomore starter Chad Cox, who limited Garden City to just two runs and seven hits over the first six innings. Cox departed after giving up a single and a walk to start the eighth only to have Rivera walk two men to force in a run and then surrender the base-clearing double down the line that tied it.
KCKCC nearly won on the first pitch on the ninth inning, a line shot down the leftfield line off the bat of Brandon Green that Goldbeck thought might have been a game-ending home run but the umpires ruled differently.
The Blue Devils did get one home run. Tyler Pittman greeted reliever Dillan Feurstein with a 2-run shot over the 375-foot mark following a two-out Woodard single that increased KCKCC’s lead to 6-1 in the fourth inning.
Woodard provided the big blow in KCKCC’s 4-run second inning, a 2-run single. Singles by Rorey Combs and Easton Fortuna ignited the rally. Two errors scored one run and Holtgrieve walked with the bases-loaded for a second before Woodard’s hit. Woodard finished with three hits, Pittman and Combs two each for KCKCC, which was outhit 11-8.
Cox limited Garden City to one hit over the first three innings before the Broncbusters cut the KCKCC lead to 4-1 in the fourth on a walk and a Clint Allen’s double. Cox got out of a second and third jam in the fifth with a pair of strikeouts but the Broncbusters closed to 6-2 on a Rafael Villeis triple in the sixth. Cox allowed eight hits and four runs in 7 1/3 innings.
Just as quickly as Kansas City Kansas Community College fell out of third place in the Jayhawk Conference, the Blue Devils moved right back into third with a sweep of Neosho County Saturday.
Shae Stephens and Julian Rivera combined on a 3-hitter in a 3-1 win in the opener and the Blue Devils rallied from an early 7-1 deficit for a 10-8 win in the second game as the Blue Devils got a measure of revenge for two losses at Neosho on Thursday.
The sweep vaulted the Blue Devils (21-11) to a game lead over Neosho (20-12) and maintained at least a 2-game lead over fifth place Fort Scott (17-13), which has a doubleheader with league-leading Johnson County (24-6) Sunday. At Baker JV in a non-conference game Monday, KCKCC will close out regular season play with four games against No, 13 ranked Johnson County starting at home Thursday at 1 p.m. In other closing action, second place Cowley (22-8) will play Fort Scott and Neosho will play Labette (10-20).
A freshman from Kissimmee, Fla., Julian Rivera pitched out of bases-loaded jams for saves in both games against Neosho County, the defending Jayhawk champion.
Shea Stephens pitched brilliantly over the first six innings in the opener, scattering three singles, walking none and striking out eight including five in a row during one stretch. But two hit batsman and a walk loaded the bases with one out and Rivera came to the rescue. After striking out Will Clark, he gave up a run on a bases-loaded walk on a 3-2 pitch before getting leadoff hitter Nate Crossman on a line drive to Tyler Pittman in left center to end it.
Limited to three singles the first four innings, the Blue Devils finally broke through in the fifth, scoring three times, the final two on a 2-out home run by Truman freshman Rorey Combs. Easton Fortuna ignited the game-winning rally with a single, stole second, went to third on a ground ball and scored on Drew Holtgrieve’s sacrifice fly to center. Brigham Mooney was hit by a pitch and Combs pounded his second home run of the season to right-center.
Neosho took advantage of a couple of Blue Devil errors to open a 7-1 lead in the top of the second of the nightcap. The Panthers jumped on starter Corey Cowan for five hits and three runs in the first inning and added four more – all unearned – on a Nolan Beets’ grand slam after a one-out error in the second.
From there, however, Cowan was nearly flawless, allowing just two hits and four baserunners over the next five innings, a shutdown performance that gave the Blue Devils ample time to rally and that they did. They got one run in the first on the first of three hits by Combs, an error and Chase Redick’s ground ball RBI and then put five runs on the board in the second.
After a single by Fortuna and an error, Holtgrieve singled in two runs, Combs and Alex Phillips each doubled in a run and Redick singled in another to cut the KCKCC deficit to 7-6 and that’s the way it stayed until the Blue Devils pulled even in the sixth on singles by Holtrgrieve, Combs and Pittman, the last two with two out.
Another two-out rally put KCKCC ahead to stay in the seventh. Brandon Green doubled with two out and came home on Fortuna’s third single of the game and the Blue Devils added two insurance runs in the eighth on two walks, Pittman’s squeeze bunt and a single by Phillips.
Cole Gacke pitched a scoreless eighth in relief of Stephens but after back-to-back singles with one out in the ninth, Rivera came on for his second save. After a walk loaded the bases, Rivera struck out Beets on an 0-2 pitch, hit a batter to force in a run and then fanned Joe Mondragon, also on an 0-2 pitch.
DÉJÀ VU – Twice KCKCC freshman relief pitcher Julian Rivera (right) walked off the mound to receive accolades from his teammates after pitching out of bases-loaded final inning jams and record saves in 3-1 and 10-8 wins over Neosho County Saturday. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)
Fort Scott apparently riled up Kansas City Kansas Community College’s baseball Blue Devils by scoring seven runs in the first two innings of a Jayhawk Conference at Fort Scott Thursday because the Blue Devils pounded out 33 hits and outscored the Greyhounds 22-4 the rest of the day.
Bouncing back from a 7-0 deficit, the Blue Devils won the opener 12-8 in seven innings and followed up with a 9-inning 10-3 win in the nightcap. The two teams will complete their four-game series with a 1 p.m. twin bill at KCKCC.
The sweep kept KCKCC tied for second in the Jayhawk with Cowley at 18-8 and moved them two games ahead of Fort Scott and Neosho County (both 16-10) in the race for an opening round home playoff berth. Johnson County, KCKCC’s final foe on this season’s conference schedule, completed a four-game sweep of Allen County Thursday and leads the league at 22-6.
Tyler Pittman, a freshman centerfielder from Liberty, led KCKCC’s offensive assault with eight hits in nine trips to the plate including 5-of-5 in the second game while Albert Woodard, Chase Redick, Rorey Combs and Drew Holtgrieve each had four hits in the doubleheader.
Fort Scott jumped on Blue Devil starter Jake Purl for three runs on three hits including a 2-run triple by Andrew Morrow in the first inning and added four more runs in the second on five hits and an error. But Purl (6-1) allowed only one hit and one run the next 4.1 innings before Julian Rivera came on to record the final five outs, four on strikeouts.
The Blue Devils started their comeback in the third, scoring four times on five hits. After singles by Woodard and Pittman, Redick doubled in both and Brandon Green and Easton Fortuna singled in runs. Aided by two hit batsman and an error, KCKCC tied it 7-7 in the fourth on just two hits, a single by Holtgrieve and double by Redick.
Fort Scott went back ahead 8-7 in the fourth but KCKCC tied it in the fifth on Pittman’s bunt single following a hit batsman and a Woodard single and then went ahead to stay 10-8 in the sixth. After an error and a Fortuna sacrifice, Combs singled in the go-ahead run. Holtgrieve doubled and Josh Schumacher lifted a sacrifice fly for a 10-8 lead and KCKCC added two insurance runs in the seventh on hits by Pittman and Redick, two walks, a Zach Mahoney sacrifice and a hit batsman, Fort Scott’s sixth of the game.
It was the Blue Devils who jumped in front 4-0 in the first two innings of the second game and sophomore righthander Chad Cox (3-2) took it from there, allowing just two earned runs and eight hits while striking out seven and walking one before Cole Gacke pitched a scoreless ninth.
Pittman’s five hits included two doubles and a triple while Zach Mahoney hammered a 2-run home run; Combs singled twice and doubled; and Alex Phillips, Woodard, Holtgrieve and Schumacher had two hits each.
A Combs’ double following singles by Pittman and Phillips made it 1-0 in the first and KCKCC used three extra base hits, a triple by Pittman and doubles by Woodard and Phillips to make it 4-0 in the second. A Pittman double kept KCKCC in front 4-1 in the fourth and Mahoney’s second home run of the season capped a 3-run seventh and an 8-2 lead.
Kansas City Kansas Community College got just what every team wants from a leadoff man Monday in a 6-5 win at Maple Woods.
Rorey Combs, a freshman outfielder from Truman High School in Independence, had two singles, a double and triple, drove in two runs and scored three times in leading the Blue Devils to their 28th win in 30 starts.
The win sets up KCKCC’s biggest Jayhawk Conference series of the season to date, a four-game set with Fort Scott with whom the Blue Devils are deadlocked in second place. The series will open with two games at Fort Scott Thursday followed by two at home Saturday at 1 p.m.
Combs started the game with a triple and scored on Ty Bradshaw’s single; then scored again in the third on a single, stolen base and throwing error. An error and Dade Wheeler’s single made it 3-0 in the fourth only to have Maple Woods close to 3-2 in the sixth on a walk, two singles and a 2-out error against reliever Jarrett Cronin.
Combs then delivered the game’s biggest hit in the seventh, a 2-run double after singles by Wheeler and Adam, and then scored what proved to be the winning run on Bradshaw’s sacrifice fly.
Maple Woods cut the margin to 6-5 in the seventh, scoring three times on five hits off Allan Brown, the big blow a 2-run home run by Matt Mackey, before Jake Bartshe got a save with two scoreless innings. Max Storch, who pitched five scoreless innings while scattering five hits and striking out four, got the pitching win,
Kansas City Kansas Community College bounced back from perhaps the Blue Devils most frustrating loss of the season with a fury Saturday.
Beaten 11-10 in extra innings when Allen County scored six runs in the final two innings, the Blue Devils lashed out 17 hits in an 11-3 nightcap win.
The split enabled the Blue Devils (16-8) to move into a tie with Fort Scott for second place in the Jayhawk Conference and sets up a crucial four-game series with the Greyhounds this week. The first two games will be played at Fort Scott Thursday; the final two at KCKCC on Saturday at 1 p.m. Johnson County (18-6) holds a 2-game lead in the conference with Cowley (14-8) fourth and Allen County and Neosho County tied for fifth at 14-10.
Brandon Green, Chase Redick and Alex Phillips each had three hits and drove in two runs and Julian Rivera was outstanding in relief in the 11-3 second game win. Rivera came in after Allen had cut a 4-0 lead in half against starter Corey Cowan in the fourth inning and allowed just two hits and one run in the final 3.2 innings, striking out seven and walking two.
Meanwhile, the Blue Devils scored at least two runs in five of the seven innings starting in the first after Albert Woodard led off with a double and Tyler Pittman beat out a bunt single. Phillips’ sacrifice fly and Redick’s single made it 2-0 and the Blue Devils extended the lead to 4-0 in the third on back-to-back-to-back singles by Phillips, Redick, Green and Easton Fortuna.
Green led off the fifth with his fourth home run of the season and singles by Rorey Combs and Josh Schumacher made it 6-2 in the fifth. Phillips, Redick and Green rapped consecutive singles in a 2-run sixth and KCKCC wrapped up the win with three unearned runs in the seventh on hits by Drew Holtgrieve and Phillips and two errors.
The Blue Devils belted four home runs in the opening game only to have five errors make six of Allen County’s runs unearned in the 11-10 loss. However, it was Allen’s Sky-lar Culvar who had the most telling blasts, a 3-run home in a 5-run game-tying rally in the bottom of the seventh and then the game-winner leading off the bottom of the eighth. Culvar also had two home runs in KCKCC’s sweep of two home games on Friday.
Shae Stephens limited Allen to just two hits and struck out nine over the first six innings but the Red Devils took advantage of five walks, three wild pitches and three errors to score five runs, four of which were unearned. Still, KCKCC had a 10-5 lead going into the seventh. Culver followed a single and a walk off reliever Colton Kenagy with a 3-run homer and the Red Devils tied it with two unearned runs off Cole Gacke, the tying run crossing on a 2-out single by Aaron Mason.
Fortuna, Phillips, Redick and Josh Schumacher homered in building KCKCC’s 10-5 lead. After Allen had taken a 2-0 lead on a walk and two errors in the first inning, Fortuna started the Blue Devils comeback with a leadoff homer in the second and Phillips and Redick went deep back-to-back for a 3-2 lead in third. It was the eighth homer of the season for Phillips, seventh for Redick.
The Blue Devils bunched five hits for three runs in the fourth. After singles by Fortuna, Ty Bradshaw and Schumacher, Woodard doubled in two runs and Pittman singled in the third. A Brandon Green double led to a run and 7-2 lead in the fifth but Allen countered with three unearned runs in the fifth on an error, single, two walks and two wild pitches that scored runs. Schumacher’s home run followed by consecutive singles by Pittman, Phillips and Redick rebuilt the lead to 10-5.
The loss was the 12th one-run game in 24 league contests and fifth game decided in extra innings for the Blue Devils, who are 27-12 overall.
Kansas City Kansas Community College went to the wire yet another time for a last-inning win and then turned on the after-burners for a sweep of Allen County Friday.
The 5-4, 15-5 sweep vaulted the Blue Devils (15-7) into undisputed possession of third place and just a game back of Fort Scott and Johnson County (both 16-6) in the wild Jayhawk East Conference race. KCKCC and Allen County (13-9) resumed their four-game series at Iola Saturday before the Blue Devils take on the two league leaders in the final three weeks of the season, facing Fort Scott this coming week and JCCC the final week of the season.
The Blue Devils had to come from behind for both wins over Allen County. Trailing 3-0 from the start and down 4-3 in the seventh of the opener, the Blue Devils rallied to win on four hits, two of them bunts. It was the 11th one-run game in 22 league contests for KCKCC.
Albert Woodard led off the seventh with a ground single to right and after Tyler Pittman was ruled out for interference when his bunt attempt hit his foot, Alex Phillips lashed a hit-and-run single to left that advanced Woodard to third with the tying run. Chase Redick’s bunt single couldn’t score Woodard but loaded the bases for Brandon Green, who tied the game with a bases-loaded walk on a 3-2 pitch. Easton Fortuna then won it with a perfectly placed suicide squeeze bunt on Connor Bond’s first pitch that set off a mass exodus from the dugout by the jubilant Blue Devils.
Allen County took advantage of three Jake Purl walks, a wild pitch and a two-out single by Nathan Best to take a 3-0 lead in the first but Purl settled down to allow only one more run the next five innings, a 420-foot home run by Sky-lar Culver in the third inning. Purl allowed six hits, struck out five and walked four in six innings before Cole Gacke got the win with a scoreless seventh.
KCKCC used extra base hits for its first three runs. Woodard doubled and Pittman singled for the Blue Devils’ first run in the first, Josh Schumacher tripled in a run after a two-out Drew Holtgrieve single in the second; and Phillips tripled and scored on Redick’s single in the fifth. Woodard, Phillips, Redick and Holtgrieve each had a pair of hits as KCKCC outhit the Red Devils 12-7.
The top two hitters in the Blue Devil lineup, Woodard and Pittman, had four hits each and scored a combined five runs; Holtgrieve and Schumacher both had a pair at the bottom of the order; and Phillips and Redick drove in three runs apiece in a 17-hit attack in the 8-inning 15-5 nightcap.
That made a winner out of Chad Cox, who allowed seven hits, struck out eight and walked two in going the route. Most of the damage against Cox came in the third when Culver capped a 4-run uprising with a 3-run home run, his second of the day.
KCKCC had gone ahead 4-1 in the second on four straight hits – a double by Ty Bradshaw and singles by Holtgrieve, Schumacher and Woodard – a walk, Phillips’ sacrifice fly and bunt single by Redick. Down 5-4 in the fourth, the Blue Devils went ahead to stay 6-5 on a double by Pittman, triple by Phillips and Redick’s RBI ground ball.
Two hit batsman, a single by Green and a 2-run single by Holtgrieve highlighted a 3-run sixth; a single by Woodard and double by Pittman set up RBI’s for Phillips and Redick in the seventh; and the Blue Devils finished it with four runs in the eighth. After a hit batsman and a walk, Schumacher and Woodard singled in runs and Pittman ended it with a 2-run double.
PHOTO IDENT (2 photos)
With pinchrunner Dade Wheeler breaking for home, KCKCC second baseman Easton Fortuna laid down a perfectly place suicide squeeze bunt that gave the Blue Devils a 5-4 win over Allen County and set off a wild rush of jubilant KCKCC players to mob Fortuna for his game-winner. The Blue Devils then completed a sweep with a 15-5 second game win. (KCKCC Photos by Alan Hoskins)
Kansas City Kansas Community College’s ‘thrill-a-minute’ baseball team did it again Sunday.
Trailing Labette 3-0 in the bottom of the seventh, the Blue Devils tied it and then won it 4-3 with a run in the bottom of the ninth – the ninth time in 16 games KCKCC games have been decided by one run including four in extra innings.
Coupled with a 13-3 5-inning win in the opener, the Blue Devils improved to 10-6 in the Jayhawk Conference and pulled back into a fourth place tie with Johnson County. Allen County and Fort Scott top the standings at 12-4 followed by Cowley at 11-5. Home against Saint Mary today at 3 p.m., the Blue Devils resume conference play Thursday when they host Highland in a 1 p.m. twin bill.
Chase Redick’s line drive single to leftfield with two out and the bases loaded won the nightcap 4-3 for the Blue Devils. Albert Woodard’s two-out single ignited the winning rally and after a walk to Tyler Pittman, the Cardinals intentionally walked Alex Phillips and Redick foiled the strategy by ripping a 1-1 pitch to left.
Limited to just three hits and four base-runners over the first six innings by Cody Oliphant, the Blue Devils finally broke through in the seventh, scoring three times on a hit batsman and singles by Brandon Green, Josh Schumacher and Pittman.
The rally made a winner out of Turner sophomore righthander Cowan, who turned in his best pitching effort of the season. His pitch count limited early in the season because of an injury last fall, Cowan went the 9-inning distance allowing just seven hits, striking out seven and walking one. After giving up two runs in the first, Cowan allowed only one run and five hits over the final eight innings.
Trailing 2-0 in the opener, the Blue Devils exploded for 13 runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings in the 13-3 win. Southpaw Shae Stephens ran his record to 4-1, allowing six hits while striking out five and walking two.
Josh Schumacher, who had three hits, got the Blue Devils scoring started in the third on with a leadoff triple. After a walk and two errors, Drew Holtgrieve and Easton Fortuna put KCKCC ahead 4-2 with run-scoring singles. Pittman doubled in two runs and Phillips singled in two more in a 6-run fourth inning after the Blue Devils loaded the bases on a single by Brandon Still and bunt hits by Brandon Green and Schumacher.
The Blue Devils then ended it with a 3-run fifth on two walks, a single by Schumacher, double by Woodard and single by Pittman.
Words to the wise: Do not leave a Kansas City Kansas Community College baseball game until the final pitch.
For the fourth time in 10 Jayhawk Conference games this spring, the Blue Devils went extra innings Thursday – coming from behind for a 7-6 win in 11 innings over Independence. Coming on the heels of Jake Purl’s 3-hit 3-0 shutout in the opener, the Blue Devils extended their winning streak to four and climbed into a tie for fourth place in the Jayhawk just two games out of first. Six of the 10 games have been decided by one run.
Allen County and Fort Scott share the lead at 8-2 followed by Cowley (7-3) and KCKCC and Johnson County, both 6-4. KCKCC will complete its four-game set Saturday with a doubleheader at Independence and then return home to host Longview in a single 9-inning game Tuesday at 2 p.m.
“Our pitching has been good and it’s always good to not give in and find a way to come back and win games,” said KCKCC Coach Matt Goldbeck, whose week started Sunday with 7-1 and 4-2 wins over Coffeyville
Purl improved his record to 4-0 by striking out eight and walking four. Only one Pirate reached third base against the lanky sophomore righthander from Park Hill South. The Blue Devils scored the only run they needed in the second when Brandon Green doubled and scored on Easton Fortuna’s single. They added the final two runs in the fifth. After a Josh Schumacher single and an Albert Woodard sacrifice, Tyler Pittman tripled for one run and scored on Alex Phillips’ single.
The second game was not nearly as easy. The Blue Devils led twice at 3-2 and 4-3 only to have Indy’s Britt Stroth put the Pirates in front 6-4 with a 3-run home run in the eighth inning and it took a 2-run rally with help in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings. Fortuna started the game-tying rally with a single and after a walk, Indy hurler Anthony Moore threw Drew Holtgrieve’s bunt into right field to score both KCKCC runners.
The Blue Devils then won it in the bottom of the 11th on Alex Phillips’ one-out single after a hit batsman, wild pitch and two intentional walks had loaded the bases. Shawnee Heights freshman Luke Ostenson got his fifth win without a loss with two innings of one-hit relief after getting his third save in the opener.
Phillips drove in three runs in the second game including his fourth home run that broke a 3-3 tie in the sixth. The Blue Devils’ first three runs came in the third. After a Holtgriewe single, Woodard doubled for one run and a walk and Phillips sing escored two more. Easton Fortuna joined Phillips with three hits.
Southpaw Shae Stephens allowed just four hits, striking out seven and walking four in Sunday’s 7-1 win over Coffeyville. Chase Redick supplied all the offense that was needed, ripping solo home runs his first two times at bat and finishing with three RBI while Phillips drove in a pair with a 2-out single in the sixth.
Josh Schumacher provided the big blow in the 4-2 nightcap win, a 2-out bases-loaded single in the bottom of the eighth that scored the winning runs. The hit came after singles by Redick and Fortuna and a hit batsman loaded the bases. KCKCC trailed 1-0 entering the seventh before the Blue Devils went ahead on a double by Brandon Green and singles by Zach Mahoney and Schumacher.
Ostenson got the win, finishing the game with a pair of strikeouts after surrendering the tying run in the eighth on a walk and a pair of singles. Corey Cowan worked the first six innings and had a shutout in the sixth when Coffeyville scored on a triple and double. He allowed four hits and struck out seven.
Closing out early non-conference play with an 8-2 win over Baker JV Tuesday, Kansas City Kansas Community College jumps directly into the Jayhawk Conference fire with a home doubleheader aganinst perennial power Cowley College Thursday.
Ranked No. 5 in the NJCAA Division I baseball poll, Cowley comes into the 1 p.m. twin bill the odds-on favorite to win its fifth Jayhawk title in the last nine years and 18th championship since 1988. Conference champion in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015 and a World Series qualifier in 2016, the Tigers have been to the World Series seven times, a conference best.
The Blue Devils will bring an 8-4 record into the conference openers while Cowley is 9-4 after losing three of four to Seminole State.
“The conference championship always goes through Cowley,” says KCKCC Coach Matt Goldbeck. “They’re a good club but if we’re going to win the conference, we have to beat the best.”
KCKCC surged to a 6-0 lead in the first two innings while four Blue Devil hurlers were combining on a four-hitter in the win over Baker. Max Storch, a freshman from Olathe South, got the win, allowing three hits and no earned runs in five innings. He struck out five and walked two. Jarrett Cronin and Julian Rivera each pitched one inning and Allan Brown two innings of scoreless relief.
Tyler Pittman led the Blue Devils’ 14-hit attack with four singles and five stolen bases. Six Blue Devils had extra base hits – a triple by Josh Schumacher and doubles from Drew Holtgrieve, Zach Mahoney, Albert Woodard, Easton Fortuna and Alex Phillips. Phillips and Brandon Still each had a pair of hits.
The Blue Devils took a 2-0 lead in the first on doubles by Woodard and Phillips, singles by Pittman and Chase Redick and a sacrifice fly by Holtgrieve and added four more runs in the second. Five Blue Devils had hits in the inning. Schumacher tripled, Mahoney and Holtgrieve doubled and Woodard and Pittman singled.
The final two runs came in the sixth on a walk, a bunt single by Pittman, Holtgrieve’s third RBI on a sacrifice fly and Phillips’ run-scoring single.
Nothing like a no-hitter and a walk-off home run to spice up Kansas City Kansas Community College’s first big baseball home stand over the weekend.
Shae Stephens and Cole Gacke combined on a no-hitter in a 5-0 win over North Iowa in the opener of a doubleheader Sunday after Brandon Still put the finishing touches of a twin bill sweep with a game-winning two-run home in the bottom of the seventh for a 4-2 win Saturday. A 13-1 winner in Saturday’s opener, the Blue Devils’ bid for a four-game sweep ended a 5-2 loss in Sunday’s nightcap.
The Blue Devils (7-4) are right back in action Tuesday, hosting Baker JV in one 9-inning game at 2 p.m. before diving into the Jayhawk Conference schedule against perennial power and odds-on favorite Cowley College in a doubleheader Thursday starting at 1 p.m. The Blue Devils then close out the week with a twin bill at Cowley on Saturday.
A lefthanded sophomore from Mill Valley, Stephens struck out eight and walked three in five innings in Sunday’s 5-0 opening win before Liberty North freshman Cole Gacke closed out the no-hitter, striking out four and walking two. KCKCC took a 2-0 lead in the third. After a leadoff single by Josh Schumacher, Drew Holtgrieve delivered a triple and scored on one of two singles by Alex Phillips. Albert Woodard also had two hits including an RBI double in the fourth and Still doubled in the final run in the sixth.
However, the Blue Devils managed just two hits of four North Iowa pitchers in the nightcap, singles by Easton Fortuna and Still, in the 5-2 loss. North Iowa, meanwhile, had nine hits off four KCKCC hurlers.
A freshman from Springdale, Ark., Brandon Still wrote a dramatic finish to a come-from-behind 4-2 win in Saturday’s nightcap. Trailing 2-0 going into the bottom of the sixth, the Blue Devils tied it on a triple by Schumacher and doubles by Tyler Pittman and Phillips. Zach Mahoney then led off the seventh with a single and Still hammered the second pitch he saw over the fence in left-center. “A no doubter,” said KCKCC assistant coach Bill Sharp. The home run made a winner out of Luke Ostenson, who struck out two in one inning of relief after Chad Cox had given up two runs on four hits while striking out six in six innings.
The top three hitters in the Blue Devil lineup combined for eight hits and eight RBI in the 13-1 win Saturday. Leadoff hitter Albert Woodard drove in three runs with a single, triple and his second home run of the season; Tyler Pittman tripled and singled twice and drove in two runs; and Drew Holtgrieve knocked in three runs with a pair of singles. Zach Mahoney also launched his first home run and Still tripled in the 13-hit assault.
Sophomore Jacob Purl allowed no hits in four innings before Colton Kenagy and Cameron Bednar finished up. Purl, who has not allowed an earned run in three starts this season, struck out six and walked two.
“Our pitching staff as a whole pitched well, striking out 38 batters (out of 84 outs) and allowing just eight runs against a team that traditionally is a good-hitting team,” said KCKCC Coach Matt Goldbeck. “And we hit the ball well. Albert Woodard had a very good weekend with six hits in 11 times at bat with a double, triple and home run and two stolen bases.”
If numbers are an indicator, pitching should be a strength when Kansas City Kansas Community College opens the 2017 baseball season Friday.
When healthy, the Blue Devils’ roster boasts 15 pitchers as KCKCC hosts Maple Woods in the home opener Friday at 3 p.m. before beginning a six-game spring road trip to Texas Feb. 17-20.
The pitching question mark, however, is experience. Only one starter returns from Matt Goldbeck’s first season as head coach, a 41-20 season that included a third place finish behind Jayhawk Conference champion Neosho County and Region VI champion and World Series qualifier Cowley College. “We had a chance going into the final weekend,” remembers Goldbeck.
In addition to losing the bulk of the starting pitching staff, the Blue Devils lost a quartet of middle of the lineup hitters who accounted for 44 home runs and 245 runs-batted-in (more than half of KCKCC’s 478 RBI’s for the season).
“We lost a lot of power from the middle of the order so we’re going to have to be a little more mobile this season, more bunting and hit-and-run to put pressure on the defense,” says Goldbeck. “However, I think we’ve upgraded ourselves on the mound with more depth and top end guys.”
Jake Purl, a 6-3 righthander from Park Hill, returns to anchor the starting rotation. Purl led the Blue Devil mound staff last year with a 9-3 record. He’ll likely be followed by Chad Cox (4-1), who appeared in a 16 games in relief last year, and southpaw Shae Stephens, a transfer from Cowley via Mill Valley
The fourth and fifth starters will come from a quartet of sophomores Cam Bednar of St. James Academy and Corey Cowan of Turner and freshmen Max Storch of Olathe South and Cole Gacke of Liberty. Luke Ostenson, a redshirt freshman from Shawnee Heights, will be the closer.
Middle relief will come from a corps of sophomores Jarret Cronin, a transfer from Indian Hills; Colton Kenagy (Gower, Mo.), Gunner Vestal (Piper) and Elijah Baig (St. Joe Benton) and freshmen Allan Brown from Olathe Northwest; Jake Bartshe of Liberty North and Julian Rivera of Kissimmee, Fla.
Experience, however, will be a plus on the infield where the Blue Devils return three starters, catcher Drew Holtgrieve of St. Charles, Mo., and the up-the-middle duo of shortstop Albert Woodard and second baseman Easton Fortuna. Holtgrieve hit .347 with six home runs and 49 RBI in a dual role catching and serving as designated hitter. He’ll be backed by Adam North, a freshman from SM South.
Woodward hit .314 with 38 RBI and Fortuna .342 with 21 RBI and provided the Blue Devils with solid middle of the infield defense. Woodward also stole 14 bases. “The fastest player in Kansas,” says Goldbeck after Woodward won a 60-yard dash in a state-wide tryout camp.
They’ll be joined on the corners by freshman Brandon Still of Springdale, Ark., at first and sophomore Zack Mahoney of Bishop Miege at third. Mahoney played in 46 games last season, hitting .273 with 23 RBI. They’ll be backed up by freshmen Rider Harris of Blue Valley, Van Oswald of Truman, Brigham Mooney of Blue Springs South and sophomore Alex Phillips, a first baseman and designated hitter who transferred from Northwest Oklahoma.
Chase Redick, a sophomore from SM North who hit .362 with 36 RBI last season, will get the starting nod in rightfield with swift Blue Springs freshman Tyler Pittman in center. The starter in left will come from a corps of sophomore Ty Bradshaw of Winnetonka and freshmen Josh Schumacher of Aurora, Colo., Dade Wheeler of St. Joe Benton and Rorey Combs of Truman. Bradshaw hit .441 in 20 games last season. “You can make a case for all four of them,” says Goldbeck. They are joined by sophomore Tyler Mars of Mill Valley, who is also a candidate at first and designated hitter.
Defensively, the Blue Devils could be outstanding with veterans Woodard, Fortuna and Mahoney on the infield, Holtgrieve behind the plate and Redick in right with the speedy Pittman in center. “Pittman has game-changing speed,” says Goldback. But as usual, it will come down to pitching. “More of a strength than last year; we have quality arms at the top and depth-wise throughout the whole staff.”
Goldbeck will again be assisted by former Blue Devil standout Bill Sharp, who is in his eighth year on the staff; Lendsey Thomson, second season; and first year coaches Dean Long, Zane Mapes and Ryne McDonald.
The Jayhawk Conference again will be loaded headed by Cowley, the team the Blue Devils open the conference season against Thursday, March 2. Neosho, Johnson County and Allen are among the other expected powers in a conference that ranks among the nation’s best. Each team will play a 36-game schedule with doubleheaders against the same foe each Thursday and Saturday.
Kansas City Kansas Community College outfielder Eli Lovell has earned Honorable Mention on the 2016 NJCAA Division I All-America baseball team.
The Blue Devils’ Most Valuable Player and leading hitter this season, Lovell was one of six Jayhawk Conference players earning All-America recognition. Two players from league champion Neosho County, sophomore catcher Ryan Toliver and freshman third baseman Brylie Ward, were named to the first team while Cowley pitcher Carson LaRue and infielder Shane Cooper and outfielder Caden Doga of Hutchinson joined Lovell on the Honorable Mention list.
A graduate Lincoln Southwest in Lincoln, Neb., Lovell was a two-year starter. As a freshman, he had 69 hits, 38 RBI and a .358 batting average as a freshman but no home runs. This year he had a team leading 15 home runs while pacing the Blue Devils in hits (96), extra base hits (41), stolen bases (16) and batting average (.451). He also finished in the Top Three in voting for the Jayhawk East’s Most Valuable Player award.
“Eli put up tremendous numbers because of all his hard work,” said Goldbeck. “He really worked hard on his craft. He also made himself into a good centerfielder after playing the corner outfield spots last year.”
In addition to a rigorous training schedule, Lovell played for the Midwest A’s in the Mid-Plains League in Kansas City last summer. “I worked my tail off, lifting and hitting every day and before and after practice in the fall. It was a lot harder my freshman year. I enjoyed my time here at KCKCC for sure. I definitely learned a lot my freshman year about the conference and where I needed to be my sophomore year and how much more prepared I needed to be.”
Kansas City Kansas Community College outfielder Eli Lovell played the recruiting waiting game and came out a winner.
The Blue Devils’ Most Valuable Player and leading hitter this season, Lovell was being courted by such NCAA Division I teams as Michigan State, Missouri, Missouri State and Central Arkansas along with most of the teams in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA).
That was until Florida Gulf Coast University got involved. “They saw my stats on the NJCAA website and contacted Coach (Matt) Goldbeck and then came up and watched me in our game against Labette,” said Lovell, who more than lived up to any advance billing, just missing hitting for the cycle with a double, triple and home run.
“I went down for a visit and they offered me a 60 percent scholarship,” continued Lovell. “A week later, they made the offer a full ride. I said yes the next day.”
The deal was made even sweeter by the history and location of Florida Golf Coast in Fort Myers, the one-time spring training site of the Kansas City Royals.
“Playing in Florida, you’re scouted by pro teams a lot and Florida Gulf Coast has had 20 players drafted by major league teams since 2000, which is the ultimate goal,” said Lovell, That draft list is headed by Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox, the winningest pitcher in baseball this season. “Also, they make the ASC (Atlantic Sun Conference) tournament every year.”
A of graduate Lincoln Southwest in Lincoln, Neb., Blue Devil coaches contacted Lovell after a recommendation from Easton Edmond, who was a teammate of Lovell before coming to KCKCC a year ahead of Lovell. He was recruited in the fall of his senior year.
A two-year starter, Lovell had 69 hits, 38 RBI and a .358 batting average as a freshman but no home runs. This year he had a team leading 15 home runs while pacing the Blue Devils in hits (96), extra base hits (41), stolen bases (16) and batting average (.451) and finished in the Top Three in voting for the Jayhawk East’s Most Valuable Player award.
“Eli put up tremendous numbers because of all his hard work,” said Goldbeck. “He really worked hard on his craft. He also made himself into a good centerfielder after playing the corner outfield spots last year.”
In addition to a rigorous training schedule, Lovell played for the Midwest A’s in the Mid-Plains League in Kansas City last summer. “I worked my tail off, lifting and hitting every day and before and after practice in the fall. It was a lot harder my freshman year. I enjoyed my time here at KCKCC for sure. I definitely learned a lot my freshman year about the conference and where I needed to be my sophomore year and how much more prepared I needed to be.”
Sophomore Eli Lovell became the latest graduate of the KCKCC baseball program to sign a letter of intent to attend an NCAA Division I member. The Blue Devils’ MVP and leading hitter, Lovell has signed with Florida Gulf Coast in Fort Myers. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)
With the spring semester ended and graduation just around the corner, it’s time to hand out final grades – in this case the Kansas City Kansas Community College baseball team and first year coach Matt Goldbeck.
Winning more than twice as many games as they lost (41-20), the Blue Devils earned a solid A. In arguably the toughest two-year college baseball conference in the nation, the Blue Devils were in contention for the Jayhawk East championship right down to the final week, finishing third behind Neosho County, the league champion and No. 1 ranked team in the NJCAA, and Cowley, which won the Region VI super-regional playoffs and is headed for another appearance in the NJCAA World Series in Grand Junction, Colo.
The Blue Devils also had nine players earn All-Jayhawk East honors led by first team outfielder Eli Lovell and second team selections Conor Behrens at first base and Travis Stroup at third. Both Stroup and Behrens also earned Gold Gloves for their defensive play.
But it wasn’t the 41 wins nor all the post-season honors that made Goldbeck most proud. “We were fortunate to have a great group of young men who worked hard on and off the field,” said Goldbeck. “We had so many people complement us on how well behaved our players were, from the people in the study hall in library, bus drivers, fund raisers.
“While we were disappointed we didn’t go farther in the tournament, the main thing is to put kids in position to make good grades, perform well on the field, continue to get better and move on to the next level.”
The Blue Devils will lose a dozen players to graduation this spring. At least a half-dozen are being considered for NCAA Division I or Division II programs and Goldbeck expects everyone to have an opportunity to move on to four-year programs.
Following on the heels of NJCAA Hall of Famer Steve Burleson provided new experiences for Goldbeck. “Not a lot of difference on the field having been around 21 years and having a great mentor to teach me the ins and outs of the game made for a fairly easy transition,” said Goldbeck. “But there’s a lot of other things that go into coaching baseball or any coaching, making sure kids go to class, fund-raising, taking care of bringing in new recruits and recruiting new kids. A lot goes into it.”
On the field, the Blue Devils had a team batting average of .352 that was highest in the last four years. All nine Blue Devils starters hit .314 or better. “Coach (Bill) Sharp was in charge of hitting and did an excellent job,” said Goldbeck.
Graduation will take the heart right out of the lineup, the No. 2 through 5 hitters in the lineup – Behrens, Stroup, Lovell and outfielder Ryan Fisher. Together, they had a combined .407 batting average, belted 43 home runs and drove in 244 runs.
Lovell and Stroup waged a season-long duel in the team batting race with Lovell edging Stroup .451-.447. Lovell also led in hits (96), extra base hits (41), home runs (15), RBI (82) and stolen bases (16) while Stroup had 85 hits, 39 extra base hits, 13 home runs and 55 RBI. Behrens also had 85 hits, 38 extra base hits, nine home runs, 47 RBI and a 378 average while Fisher (.357) was second in RBI with 60 along with seven home runs and 26 extra base hits. “It’s going to be tough to replace that kind of offense,” said Goldbeck, who position-wise will also lose catcher Malone Smith (.264) and outfielder Daulton Smith (.245).
The Blue Devils will also lose two pitchers who earned All-Jayhawk honorable mention, Brandon Reid (6-2), who had two shutouts and two 2-hitters in his last four starts, and reliever Avery Fliger (7-2) who led in ERA (2.81) and had four saves in addition to seven wins. A redshirt freshman, Fliger graduates and is expect to move on. Other pitching losses will include starter Dustin Eby (4-2 in 12 starts), Tanner Vestal (3-2), Ross Perez (2-0) and Alton Walker (0-0).
The Blue Devil cupboard, however, will not be left bare. The middle infield combo of second baseman Easton Fortuna and shortstop Albert Woodard return along with catcher Drew Holtgrieve and outfielder Chase Redick, and part-time starters Zach Mahoney and Ty Bradshaw.
Holtgrieve, who hit .341 and drove in 49 runs, and Woodard, .314 and 38 RBI, both earned All-Jayhawk honorable mention while Redick hit .362 and drove in 47 runs from the leadoff spot and Fortuna hit .344 with 21 RBI. Mahoney batted .273 with 23 RBI in 46 games and Bradshaw hit a sizzling .412 in 19 contests. Other returnees include Levi Froud (,269), Ryne McDonald (.250) and Joe Ramos (.100).
Jake Purl, who led in wins with a 9-2 record and was all-conference honorable mention, heads the returnees on the pitching staff. The list also includes Chad Cox, 4-1 with four saves; Cameron Bednar, 3-3 in 18 games, Colton Kenagy (2-1), Gunner Vestal (0-2), Ryker Johnson (0-1) and Elija Baig (0-0).
“You have to remember that a lot of our sophomore starters didn’t hit well as freshmen and Brandon Reid only threw three innings last year and was our most dominant player this year,” said Bill Sharp, one of Goldbeck’s assistants along with Lendsey Thompson. “I’m very fortunate to have such dedicated assistant coaches in Bill and Lendsey,” said Goldbeck. “I’m sure they work as hard as any coaches in the country.”
Brandon Reid pitched only three innings last year at Kansas City Kansas Community College. Eli Lovell did not hit a home run.
Today, Reid is the recipient of the annual Mike Haen Hustle Award and Lovell the Blue Devils’ Most Valuable Player for 2016 as chosen by a vote of their fellow players.
Given each year in honor of the late Mike Haen, who was shot and killed while serving as a reserve police officer only weeks after being named KCKCC head baseball coach in 1978, the Mike Haen Hustle Award is given to the player who best demonstrates the character and qualities of the late coach.
“It’s great, I’m very happy,” said Reid. “I hope this will teach all the freshmen what a lot of hard work can do for you.” A sophomore righthander, Reid was spectacular down the stretch with a pair of shutouts and two 2-hitters in his last four starts. He finished the year with a 6-2 record with 4.54 earned run average.
“Off the field, pretty close to a straight A student with great character,” said KCKCC Coach Matt Goldbeck said of Reid. “Just a great work ethic on and off the field. The best example one Saturday before a home game he was in the Wellness Center working out. He wasn’t pitching but he didn’t have to. To have him throw only three innings last year and then come on the way he did, working his way through some early season struggles and dominating at the end of the year was very special.”
A .358 hitter with no home runs and 38 RBI as a freshman, Lovell blasted 15 home runs this season while leading the Blue Devils in hitting (.451), runs-batted-in (82), hits (96), extra base hits (41) and stolen bases (16).
“Eli put up tremendous numbers because of how hard he worked,” said Goldbeck. “He worked extra hard on his craft, coming in on Sundays and hitting before and after practice. He wanted to be a centerfielder and made himself into a good one after playing the corner positions last year.”
Ironically, both Reid and Lovell came to KCKCC on recommendations of former players. “Alex Thrower was a centerfielder here and recommended me to the coaches,” said Reid, a sophomore from Toronto, Ontario. “I came down and tried out and they liked what they saw. It was my only D1 offer.”
From three innings as a freshman, Reid threw 78.1 innings this year. “I worked my tail off last year and over the summer, working with my pitching coach and my personal trainer back home.” His only two losses came early in the season. “Halfway through the season everything started to click and I started shutting teams down. Coach Goldbeck recommended that I go to a two-seam fastball and I started seeing a lot more ground balls.”
In his final four starts, Reid blanked Fort Scott 3-0 on four hits; held conference champion Neosho without a hit for five innings before finishing with a 2-hitter in an 11-1 win; blanked Barton County 13-0 on two hits in the opening round of playoffs; and then scattered six hits in 7.1 innings in a 4-2 win over offensive juggernaut Hutchinson in the super-regional opener.
Reid has yet to decide where he’ll pitch next season but has narrowed his choices to three NCAA Division II powers, North Alabama, Missouri Western and Central Missouri, where he would rejoin one of the coaches who recruited him to KCKCC, Mules’ assistant Damian Stambersky.
Lovell’s decision to come to KCKCC was influenced by Easton Edmond who was a year ahead of him at Lincoln Southwest High School. “He knew me from high school and told the coaches about me and I was recruited in the fall of my senior year,” said Lovell.
After his .358 freshman season without a home run, Lovell spent last summer playing for the Midwest A’s in the Mid-Plains League in Kansas City. “I worked my tail off during the summer, lifting and hitting every day,” he said. The result 15 homeruns, 82 RBI and team leading .451 batting average.
Eli Lovell (left) has been voted the Most Valuable Player on the 2016 KCKCC baseball team and Brandon Reid the recipient of the annual Mike Haen Hustle Award for the player who best demonstrated the qualities of Haen, who was shot and killed while a reserve police officer shortly after being named head KCKCC baseball coach in 1978. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)
Kansas City Kansas Community College’s three hit leaders also made a hit with coaches in the Jayhawk Conference.
All three, outfielder Eli Lovell, third baseman Travis Stroup and first baseman Conor Behrens, were voted to All-Jayhawk East teams, Lovell to the first team and Stroup and Behrens to the second team. Behrens and Stroup were also named Gold Glove winners at their respective position
In addition, six Blue Devils earned honorable mention – catcher Drew Holtgrieve, shortstop Albert Woodard, outfielder Ryan Fisher and pitchers Brandon Reid, Jake Purl and Avery Fliger..
As a trio, Lovell, Stroup and Behrens had a combined batting average of .423 with 37 home runs and 184 runs-batted-in and each had 85 or more hits as they led the Blue Devils to a 41-19 record and a third place tie in the East.
A sophomore from Lincoln, Neb., Lovell led the way offensively, bashing out 96 hits for a .451 batting average. He also led in home runs with 15, extra base hits (41), runs-batted-in (82) and stolen bases (16). In addition, Lovell finished in the top three in voting for the conference’s Most Valuable Player award.
Stroup, a sophomore from Lee’s Summit, finished second in hitting just four points back of Lovell at .447. He was also second in home runs (13) and extra base hits (39) and led the Blue Devils in slugging at .817. He earned the Gold Glove for third base with a .931 fielding percentage.
Behrens, a sophomore from Lincoln where he and Lovell were teammates at Lincoln Southwest, hit .378 with nine home runs, 38 extra base hits and 47 RBI. Playing in 57 games, Behrens had a league-best .988 fielding average with 545 putouts and 47 assists to win the Gold Glove at first.
Fisher, a left-handed hitter from Liberty, finished second in runs-batted-in with 60 while hitting .357 from the No. 5 spot in the batting order. A sophomore, Fisher also had seven home runs and 26 extra base hits. A freshman from St. Charles, Holtgrieve batted .341 with six homers and 49 RBI while Woodard, a frosh from Nashville, Tenn., hit .314 with 38 RBI.
Reid, a sophomore from Toronto, Ontario, finished the season with two shutouts and a pair of 2-hitters. In a team high 78.1 innings, Reid compiled a 6-2 record with a 4.54 earned run average. Purl led the Blue Devils in wins with a 9-2 record. A freshman from Park Hill South, he also led in strikeouts (48) while compiling a 4.53 ERA in 74 innings. The ace of the relief corps with four saves, Fliger was second in wins (7-2) and led the Blue Devils with a 2.81 ERA and strikeouts to walks ratio of 3.23. A redshirt freshman from Basehor, Fliger will earn his AA degree this month and will continue his education at a four-year college
A trio of All-Jayhawk East selections (from left), Conor Behrens and Travis Stroup, both second team picks and Gold Glove winners at first and third base, respectively, and first team all-conference outfielder Eli Lovell combined for a . 423 batting average with 37 home runs and 184 runs-batted-in. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)