Early morning win has KCKCC one win from World Series

by Alan Hoskins

Kansas City Kansas Community College is one win away from its first trip to the NJCAA World Series since 1976.

The only unbeaten team left in the double elimination super-regional after a 7-1 win over Cowley County in a game that ended at 2:26 a.m. Monday morning, the Blue Devils (39-20) are in the championship game Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Wichita’s Lawrence Dumont Stadium. A win would send KCKCC to the World Series in Grand Junction, Colo., May 23-31. If a second game is needed, it would start at 8 p.m..

The Blue Devils’ opponent will be decided today when Garden City (38-22) and Johnson County (46-12) square off at 4 p.m. with the winner facing Cowley (38-16) at 7 p.m. for the right to advance to the championship game against KCKCC Tuesday. KCKCC has defeated all three teams in the super-regional, nipping No. 1 seeded JCCC 3-2 in the opener and Garden City 12-8 in the second round.

With a day off, the Blue Devils will have pitching ace Geoffrey Birkemeier (8-4) ready to go with three days rest and southpaw Hunter Phillips (9-6) with two days rest. The game will be streamed on the Jayhawk Conference website live stats at www.kjccc.org.

A gutty pitching performance by sophomore E.J. Merlo carried the Blue Devils to their third straight win in the double elimination tournament. A righthander from Blue Springs, Merlo (6-3) gave up just one run in scattering seven hits, striking out seven and walking four over seven innings while sitting out two lengthy delays, one for rain and one for a Cowley protest.

“He really battled the whole way,” said KCKCC Coach Steve Burleson. “Considering the delays because of the weather and the protest and a high pitch count (154), he really battled. He’s a former wrestler with a wrestler’s mentality of wanting to do his part and he did. He bent but never broke and struck out their cleanup hitter with his last pitch in the seventh.”

The protest came in the fifth inning after KCKCC had already scored one run on a force-out at second on Christian Arnold’s slow ground ball after the Blue Devils had loaded the bases on a Luke Norton single, a throwing error on Tanner Thoibdeau’s sacrifice bunt and an intentional walk to Garrett McKinzie. On a hit and run, Daniel LaMunyon flied to rightfield and the throw back to first doubled up Arnold – but not before Thibodeau had tagged and scored from third base.

That brought out a 30-minute protest from Cowley that the run should not have counted. “The rule speaks clearly,” said Burleson. “It’s something I learned about in about 1985 while umpiring a game and I made the incorrect call.”

An effective use of the bunt figured in KCKCC building a 5-0 lead through the first five innings. Norton led off the game with a walk, took second on a Thibodeau bunt and scored on a McKinzie double to right for a 1-0 lead and the Blue Devils added two more in the fourth. After a double by LaMunyon and single by Tyler Raymond, Alex Thrower’s squeeze bunt scored LaMunyon and Raymond scored on a suicide squeeze bunt by Foerschler. The Blue Devils made it 7-0 in the seventh on LaMunyon’s two-run double following a walk and Arnold’s second single of the game.

Alan Hoskins is the sports information director at KCKCC.

Gordon wins again at Kansas Speedway

It had been 12 years since Jeff Gordon visited Victory Lane at Kansas Speedway, but tonight he returned to Victory Lane, winning the 5-hour ENERGY® 400 Benefiting Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

Not only is the win Gordon’s first of the season, but he becomes the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver to win three races at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan.

“I don’t know what it is about this team, this No. 24 car and us here at Kansas on inaugural nights or days but I love this place, such a great race track, said Gordon. “Some of the best race fans we have, so thanks to them for coming here for a Saturday night race before Mother’s Day.”

With the win, Gordon has almost virtually assured himself a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Missouri native Carl Edwards finished sixth, while Clint Bowyer and Jamie McMurray finished 23rd and 39th, respectively. Danica Patrick had her best career finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, finishing seventh.

Tickets are currently on sale for Kansas Speedway’s June 7 IMSA races, the Oct. 3 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, the Oct. 4 Kansas Lottery 300 (NASCAR Nationwide Series) and the Oct. 5 Hollywood Casino 400, the fourth race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Tickets can be purchased by calling 866-460-RACE (7223) or by logging onto www.kansasspeedway.com.

Blue Devils upset No. 1 seeded JCCC in playoff opener

by Alan Hoskins

Kansas City Kansas Community College landed the first haymaker of the NJCAA baseball super-regional Friday, dealing No. 1 seeded and 15th ranked Johnson County a 3-2 opening round defeat at Wichita’s Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.
The come-from-behind win advanced the Blue Devils (37-20) into a winner’s bracket clash today with Garden City (37-21) at 4 p.m., a game that will be streamed through the kjccc.org website. A win would send KCKCC against today’s Cowley-Hutchinson winner Sunday at 4 p.m., a loss would drop them into a loser’s bracket elimination game at 1 p.m. Sunday.
The Blue Devils got a brilliant pitching performance from Geoffrey Birkemeier, a freshman righthander from Papillion, Neb., who did not allow an earned run while allowing just six hits, striking out four and walking five. The only runs off Birkemeier came on a throwing error with two out in the fourth inning and another throwing error in the sixth when the Cavaliers scored without a hit.
Trailing 2-0, the Blue Devils tied the game in the eighth. Garrett McKinzie and Christian Arnold singled with one out and Daniel LaMunyon walked on four pitches to load the bases against JCCC ace Aaron Schnurbusch. On a 1-2 pitch, Schnurbusch hit KCKCC’s Tyler Raymond to score one run and the tying run scored on Alex Thrower’s first pitch squeeze bunt.
Shortstop Zane Mapes started KCKCC’s game-winning ninth against reliever Derek Beier with a single and raced all the way to third on Beier’s throwing error on Lucas Norton’s bunt single. One out later, Brenndon Tindall was hit by a pitch to load the bases before Mapes scored the game-winner when Christian Arnold beat the throw to first on an attempted inning-ending double play on a ground ball to short. Birkemeier then finished off the Cavaliers with a game-ending strikeout after a two-out single.
The win was particularly gratifying for the Blue Devils, who had been swept in four games by Johnson County (44-12) the second week of the Jayhawk season.