by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
Scoring runs has not been a problem for Kansas City Kansas Community College’s playoff bound Blue Devils this spring.
Averaging nearly eight runs a game, the Blue Devils (32-23) will take a collective .355 batting average into opening round NJCCC Region 6 playoff action against Butler County (27-27) at El Dorado Saturday.
A best-of-three series, two games will be played Saturday starting at 1 p.m. with a third game if necessary Sunday at 1 p.m. At stake is a berth in the 8-team regional to begin at Wichita May 8.
Eight of the Blue Devils’ nine position players will take batting averages of .322 or better into the playoffs.
“We have good offensive abilities and we want to maximize them,” said head coach Steve Burleson. “But the one thing that has riddled this team has been our recurring inability to hold leads. We’ve faced it and talked about it before it became a trend but we’ve not been able to overcome that trend.”
Jonathan May, a right-handed sophomore pitcher from LaPorte, Tex., will draw the opening assignment Saturday.
“He’s been our most consistent,” Burleson said. “He throws strikes and puts the ball in play giving our defense the opportunity to make plays.” The Blue Devil leader in wins at 6-3, May has a 4.50 ERA which is well under the combined staff ERA of 5.64.
Burleson is uncertain on the second starter, mostly likely either freshman Tyler Hull (5-1) of New Franklin, Mo., or sophomore southpaw Brandon Martinkus (5-2) of Shawnee Mission West.
Freshman third baseman Travis Stroup of Lee’s Summit West leads the Blue Devils in hitting (.402), RBI (61), home runs (4) and doubles (21).
Sophomore centerfielder Alex Thrower, who has an on-base percentage of over .500, is next at .390 with 17 stolen bases followed by shortstop Landon Mason, .382 with 45 RBI; first baseman Tanner Foerschler, .381 with three homers, 14 doubles and 51 RBI; and leftfielder El Lovell, .361, 10 doubles and 33 RBI.
Designated hitter Sam Baxter, who shares the home run lead with four, is sixth in hitting at .355 with 11 doubles and 39 RBI followed by second baseman Tyler Raymond (.355) and rightfielder Daniel LaMunyon, who is hitting .322 with 44 RBI and leads the Region VI in stolen bases with 31.
“He likes to steal bases and really works at it,” Burleson said. The starting catcher will be either freshman Malone Smith (.271) or Leavenworth sophomore Eli Keppler (.185).
While the Blue Devils have just 16 home runs, they have 106 doubles and 16 triples.
“Not a lot out of the park power with our big park but good gap power with a lot of doubles,” Burleson said.
Alan Hoskins is the sports information director for KCKCC.