by Alan Hoskins
Freshman Geoff Birkemeier will draw the opening pitching assignment when Kansas City Kansas Community College opens the Region VI playoffs at Colby Saturday at 1 p.m.
Beaten 11-8 by Maple Woods in their final regular season game Wednesday, the Blue Devils will take a 34-19 record into the regional as the No. 5 seed. The No. 4 seed out of the West, Colby is 28-22. A best of three series, two games will be played Saturday with a third if necessary on Sunday with the winner advancing to the super-regional starting May 9 at Wichita. The Colby games will be streamed on OpenSpacesSports.
“Colby always has a good club and is well coached,” said KCKCC coach Steve Burleson. “They like to run so managing their running game will be a key.”
Burleson sent four hurlers to the mound and rested several starters against Maple Woods. Spencer Nielsen worked the first four innings, giving up seven runs of which only three were earned, while Cole Frakes and Derek Watkins were both touched for three hits and two runs in their two innings of work. Zane Mapes doubled and singled twice and drove in two runs, Tyler Raymond and Mitch Glessner each singled twice and Trevor Norbury delivered a pinch RBI double in a 12-hit KCKCC attack.
The workhorse of the Blue Devil staff, Birkemeier completed nine of his 12 starts this season while compiling a 6-4 record with a 2.89 earned run average. Burleson is undecided on his Game 2 starter. Possibilities are southpaw Hunter Phillips, 8-5 with a 3.95 ERA, and E.J. Merlo, 4-3 with 4.36 ERA.
Boasting a team batting average of .300, seven of the eight Blue Devil starters are hitting .300 or better led by centerfielder Luke Norton, who is hitting .378 and leads in stolen bases with 27. The others are leftfielder Mitch Glessner (.344), third baseman Daniel LaMunyon (.341), shortstop Zane Mapes and catcher Garett McKinzie, both .319, rightfielder Christian Arnold (.308) and second baseman Tyler Raymond (.301). Only first baseman Tanner Foerschler is below .300 but he has 18 RBI.
Arnold, McKinzie and LaMunyon have supplied the power. Arnold leads in home runs (10) and RBI (50) while Garrett has six homers and 39 RBI and LaMunyon five homers and 36 RBI.