Eight Blue Devils earn all-Jayhawk baseball recognition

KCKCC placed eight players on the All-Jayhawk Conference team this season (from left) – catcher Garrett McKinzie, first team; pitcher Geoffrey Birkemeier, outfielder Lucas Norton, third baseman Daniel LaMunyon and pitcher E.J. Merlo, second team; and outfielder Christian Arnold and shortstop Zane Mapes, honorable mention. Not available pitcher Hunter Phillips, honorable mention. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)

by Alan Hoskins

Eight Kansas City Kansas Community College Blue Devils have earned recognition on the All-Jayhawk Conference baseball team for 2014.
Catcher Garrett McKinzie was named to the first team while third baseman Daniel LaMunyon, outfielder Lucas Norton and pitchers Geoffrey Birkemeier and E.J. Merlo were selected to the second team. Earning honorable mention recognition were shortstop Zane Mapes, outfielder Christian Arnold and pitcher Hunter Phillips.
A two-year starter from Raymore-Peculiar, McKinzie hit. 315 with eight home runs and 48 runs batted in. He also led in walks with 30 and tied for the team lead in slugging percentage (.525). A second team All-Jayhawk selection last year, he was second in hitting with a 331 average and drove in 34 runs as a freshman.
A sophomore from Liberty, Mo., Norton lashed out 82 hits to lead the Blue Devils in batting with a .366 average and in stolen bases with 29. Hitting from the leadoff spot, Norton was especially effective with runners in scoring position with a .441 batting average.
LaMunyon, a freshman from Blue Valley, was selected to the second team behind Jayhawk Player of the Year Chase Rader of Coffeyville. Second in hitting at .340, LaMunyon led in doubles with 20, was second in stolen bases with 14 and third in RBI with 43.
Birkemeier, a freshman from Papillion, Neb., led the Blue Devils pitching staff with an 8-4 record and 2.26 earned run average. His 11 complete games and two shutouts were also a team high. A sophomore from Blue Springs, Merlo compiled a 6-3 record with four complete games, 46 strikeouts and an ERA of 4.46.
One of three all-conference selections from Raymore-Peculiar, Arnold led the team in home runs (10), runs batted in (52) and slugging (.525) while hitting .305. A sophomore from Lincoln, Neb., Mapes hit .316 with 19 RBI, 11 stolen bases and a team high 21 sacrifices. Phillips, a freshman lefthander from Ray-Pec, led the Blue Devils in wins (9-7) and strikeouts (60) while compiling a 4.28 ERA.

Hunter Phillips (KCKCC photo)

Banner KCKCC softball season with all but one Kansas players

Third baseman Lacey Santiago (left) and leftfielder Mierra Morisette were selected the most valuable players on the 2014 KCKCC softball team. Morisette batted .494 and did not have an error in her two seasons while Santiago hit .464 and was named to Who’s Who. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)

by Alan Hoskins
Over her 14 years as head softball coach at Kansas City Kansas Community College, Kacy Tillery has always given special emphasis to the word community and the successful 2014 season was no different.
“Nine of our 10 starters were from Kansas, four of our five all-conference players were from Kansas and six of our seven all-district selections, something I’m very proud of,” Tillery said. “That’s the most in-staters of any team on the conference.”
In fact, only one non-Kansas player made a Lady Blue Devil squad that finished 32-15, hosted a first round playoff for the first time and advanced to the regional tourney in Topeka.

“We also swept Cowley County which has since advanced to the national tournament,” said Tillery, whose Blue Devils made quick work of the first round playoff by sweeping Neosho County in two games.
An all-time best team batting average of .386 and the strong pitching of freshman Leslie Ford carried the Blue Devils to their 32 wins. “A great hitting team and one of our better defensive teams,” Tillery said.
Leading the way were the co-most valuable players, third baseman Lacey Santiago and leftfielder Mierra Morrisette. A sophomore from Olathe who played high school softball at Notre Dame de Sion, Morrisette led the team in hitting (.494), runs batted in (50) and slugging percentage (.734)  to earn first team All-Jayhawk and all-district honors . A two-year starter who did not have an error either season, Morrisette also led the KCKCC hitting last year with a .459 average.

“Probably the most unconventional athlete I’ve ever coached but with the best hand and eye coordination,”  Tillery said. “She hit everything.”
The lone non-Kansas player from Molokai, Hawaii, Santiago hit. 464 with 14 stolen bases and 23 RBI from the leadoff position. A .426 hitter as a freshman, Santiago earned first team all-district honors this year and second team last year and second team All-Jayhawk both seasons. “The anchor of our infield, she had just six errors in 47 games,” Tillery said. Santiago was also one of three Blue Devils named to Who’s Who in American Community Colleges. The others were redshirts Sydnee Wilkinson and Sheyenne Espy.
Three other starters who earned either all-conference or all-district honors will also be lost, Hanna Barnhart, an All-Jayhawk first team shortstop from Bishop Ward who hit .400 with 26 RBI; second baseman Amanda Holroyd of Tonganoxie, who hit. .391 and was second in RBI with 45; and catcher Megan Dike of Lansing, who batted .388 with 21 runs batted in. Rightfielder Ashley Henington of Blue Valley Southwest, who hit .311 with 19 RBI, will also be lost.
“They are going to be very hard to replace on the field and the way they represented the college as athletes,” said Tillery, who admittedly shed a few tears when the Blue Devils were eliminated from the district tournament.
Two first team All-Region picks head the list of returnees, Ford, who was 22-8 with a 1.91 ERA, and centerfielder Justice Scales. A righthander from Garden City, Ford’s 186.2 innings were fourth most in the nation. She had eight shutouts and three no-hitters. A graduate of SM South, Scales was second in hitting with a .491 average. She also led in extra base hits (29) was third in RBI (41) and played errorlessly in anchoring the outfield.

The other top returnees are first baseman Laura Vanderheiden of Blue Valley Southwest, who .262 with 17 RBI; and pitcher Elizabeth Seimears of Ottawa, who had a 7-7 record with a .420 ERA.

To this group Tillery has already signed 10 recruits for 2014-15.

“It’s a good start and we have others coming in for visits in the next couple of weeks,” she said.

No-hitter ends KCKCC’s bid for World Series berth

Not only did the Blue Devils of Kansas City Kansas Community College absorb 8-1 and 2-0 losses in the NJCAA super-regional championship games at Wichita Tuesday, they had to suffer through Johnson County’s jubilant on-field celebration. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)

by Alan Hoskins
Over the course of 35 years of coaching, Steve Burleson has lost a lot of mind-jarring losses but none quite like Kansas City Kansas Community College’s two losses in the finals of the super-regional at Wichita Tuesday night.
With a berth in the NJCAA World Series on the line, the Blue Devils were forced into a second game by an 8-1 loss to No. 1 seeded and 5th ranked Johnson County in the first game of the double elimination tournament – and then held without a hit in a 2-0 loss in the decisive final game.
“I’ve never taken a bus ride like that one home,” said Burleson. “There literally was not a word spoken. After three good wins over three good teams with a day’s rest and a good workout in between, nothing told me we’d only score one run in 18 innings or that we’d be no-hit and strike out 11 times in the final game of the year.
“I guess as basketball coaches say, we were just not able to finish. We were the hottest team in the conference for a time but were just not able to finish, something I’m sure a lot of players and coaches will be wondering why for a long time. But I don’t want to take anything away from Johnson County. It’s hard to win 50 games in a year. They pushed us around in the first game and dominated us in the second with their pitching.”
KCKCC (39-22) had two early scoring opportunities in the second game. JCCC starter Dalton Gulick walked Christian Arnold and Tyler Raymond with one out in the second but escaped on a ground ball and pop foul and then hit Luke Norton and walked Tanner Thibodeau with one out in the third.
Summoned from the bullpen, sophomore Connor Miller struck out Garrett McKinzie and got Arnold on a fly to center – and then finished with six perfect innings. Retiring all 20 batters he faced, Miller struck out 10 in recording just his second win of the season.
Lost in the no-hitter was a superb pitching effort by KCKCC freshman lefthander Hunter Phillips (9-7), who gave up just five hits, struck out five and walked two – and two tainted runs. Scoreless through four innings, JCCC’s John Fairchild walked to lead off the fifth, moved up to second on a bunt and held there on Alec Alvarez’s fly to Luke Norton in center. However, Norton’s throw to the infield eluded three Blue Devils and then found a 5-foot opening in the JCCC dugout and Fairfield was allowed to score an unearned run.
The Cavaliers’ second run scored in the seventh when Hayden Steele doubled to left and Ben Calvano lobbed a single into short rightfield on which Arnold made a perfect one hop throw to the plate that was dropped. It was one of four outstanding plays by Arnold, who made three spectacular diving catches in the two games.
One bad inning proved the Blue Devils’ downfall in the opener. KCKCC starter Geoffrey Birkemeier, who had beaten JCCC 3-2 in the tournament opener on Friday, pitched hitless ball over the first three innings only to have the Cavaliers bunch two doubles and four singles in the fourth for a 5-0 lead. Two more runs scored after a leadoff error in the seventh after KCKCC had closed to 5-1 in the top of the seventh.
The lone KCKCC run came on a sacrifice fly by Norton after leadoff singles by Alex Thrower and Tanner Foerschler and Zane Mapes’ sacrifice bunt. Southpaw Aaron Schnurbusch (10-2), the pitcher of the year in the Jayhawk East, went the distance on an 8-hitter, walking one and striking out seven.

Facing elimination after the opening loss to KCKCC, JCCC (50-12) won six straight games including the last four in a period of 30 hours – eliminating Garden City 3-1 and Cowley 8-7 in 12 innings Sunday and then KCKCC 8-1 and 2-0. The win advances the Cavaliers to the NJCAA World Series for the first time since 2008.

Alan Hoskins is the sports information director for KCKCC.

Despite the urging of head coach Steve Burleson, KCKCC fell 8-1 and 2-0 in the NJCAA super-regional finals at Wichita Tuesday. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)
One of only four baserunners in a 2-0 loss to Johnson County Tuesday, KCKCC’s Luke Norton dives safely back into first base on a pickoff throw. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)