by Alan Hoskins, KCKCC
A home playoff berth is up for grabs as Kansas City Kansas Community College closes out regular Jayhawk Conference baseball play this week.
The Blue Devils (17-15) are locked in a three-way tie with Johnson County and Neosho County for fourth place and just a game back of third place Coffeyville (18-14) in the race for the playoff berths that go to the top four teams in the conference.
However, the Blue Devils face the toughest challenge of the home playoff contenders, playing at Cowley College Thursday, and then returning home against the Tigers Saturday at 1 p.m.
At 28-4, Cowley has already locked up the league championship over second place Fort Scott (23-9). In other season-ending series, Neosho collides with JCCC and Coffeyville clashes with Fort Scott.
“Normally, we look at the standings and use them as motivation to stay focused throughout the season but right now there are too many different playoff scenarios to worry about,” KCKCC head coach Matt Goldbeck said. “We have a tendency to play real good baseball for two or three games on the weekend but haven’t been able to sustain it through a full series so we are concentrating on playing good clean baseball one game at a time.”
KCKCC will enter Thursday’s doubleheader at Cowley with three straight wins and five wins in the last six games starting with an 8-5, 17-5 sweep at Johnson County last Thursday. The Cavaliers took the first game 2-1 at KCKCC Sunday before the Blue Devils won the second game 6-4.
The Blue Devils followed up with a 9-5 win at Saint Mary junior varsity Monday and a 13-0 home win over Baker University junior varsity Tuesday.
Three Blue Devil pitchers combined to strike out 13 in the 13-0 win over Baker. Hunter Paxton struck out five and allowed four hits in five innings, Gunner Vestal gave up one hit and fanned six in three innings and after loading the bases on a double and two walks in the ninth, Gavin Gifford struck out the side.
Five KCKCC players had at least two hits including three by Kemper Bednar while Brandon Still drove in four runs with a two-run home run and two sacrifice flies.
Adam North also had a two-run home run and single, Tyler Pittman drove in two with a pair of triples, Josh Schumacher tripled and singled and Kevin Santiago singled twice.
Gavin Gifford doubled twice and singled and pitched the final inning in Monday’s 9-5 win at Saint Mary. Julius King, Billy Kelley and James Bradley added two hits each in support of winner Victor Gotay, who allowed five hits and two earned runs while striking out six in six innings. Allan Brown fanned three in two innings of two-hit relief.
Brandon Still had the big hits in Sunday’s 6-4 win over Johnson County, a two-run single in the sixth that tied the game 2-2 and a two-run single that highlighted a four-run seventh. Bret Snider worked the first six innings, allowing just three hits and two runs. Julian Rivera (3-2) got the win, allowing two runs while striking out five.
Carlos Soto allowed only four hits and one earned run in the 2-1 loss Sunday. JCCC got an unearned run in the second and then won it on a squeeze bunt in the sixth. Josh Schumacher singled in KCKCC’s lone run as the Blue Devils were limited to four hits.
Cole Gacke ran his record to 8-1 in an 8-5 win at Johnson County last Thursday, allowing five hits, walking four and striking out four. Rorey Combs drove in three runs with a double and single and Josh Schumacher and Kevin Santiago added two hits each.
Tyler Pittman and Gavin Gifford each drove in four runs with a home run and single, Josh Schumacher singled four times and Rorey Combs delivered a two-run triple and single in KCKCC’s 17-5 romp in the second game. The Blue Devils were aided by 13 walks in the 7-inning game. Orlando Ortiz got the win, allowing just two hits and two runs, walking four and striking out six in six innings.