No. 5 KCKCC takes 34-19 record to No. 4 seeded Colby Saturday

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.

Split forces KCKCC to open playoffs at Colby Saturday

by Alan Hoskins

The biggest comeback in Jayhawk Conference baseball came to a temporary halt Monday in Kansas City Kansas Community College’s 5-0 opening loss at Allen County.

Off to a 2-10 conference start, Coach Steve Burleson’s comeback kids bounced back to win 20 of their next 22 games – the best record in the league over the past six weeks. Still, the Blue Devils needed a sweep at Allen County to host the first round of the Region VI playoffs.

As a result, the Blue Devils will open a best-of-three series at Colby Saturday. Two games will be played Saturday starting at 1 p.m. with a third game if necessary on Sunday.

“As soon as the game was over, we started the post-season,” said Burleson, whose Blue Devils won the second game 11-1. “You still have to win two of three games wherever you play. We’ve played well on the road and it’s still the same 90 feet.”

John Prochaska, a 6-2 lefthanded sophomore, blanked the Blue Devils on two hits in the 5-0 opener, striking out five and walking four in six innings.

“He pitched well,” Burleson said. “We only had two hits and hit three balls hard. We put a runner on third with no one out in the first and did not score and had men on second and third with one out in the second and did not score and that pretty well set the tone for the game. A run or two then would have changed a lot of things.”

Daniel LaMunyon had a leadoff single in the fourth and Christian Arnold a one-out single in the sixth for the Blue Devils, who had runners reach base in each inning but the seventh. Allen took advantage of a two-out walk in the second and a leadoff walk in the third to take a 2-0 lead and then added a single run in the fourth and two in the sixth off E.J. Merlo.

The Blue Devils bounced back with an 11-hit assault in the nightcap with Garrett McKinzie, Tyler Raymond and Mitch Glessner rapping out three each and LaMunyon and Zane Mapes two apiece.  Mapes drove in four runs with a double, single and two-run bunt. Two of McKinzie’s hits were doubles.

Trailing 1-0 on an unearned run in the first, KCKCC tied the game on Mapes’ two-out double in the second and then went ahead 2-1 on LaMunyon’s two out double in the third. The Blue Devils added two runs in the sixth on singles by LaMunyon, Glessner and Mapes’ sacrifice bunt and then closed out the game with four runs in the seventh and three in the eighth. Glessner, Mapes, Raymond and Arnold had singles and McKinzie a double in the seventh and Raymond and McKinzie started the 3-run eighth with back-to-back doubles.

Jonathan May got the pitching win, allowing just two singles and striking out six over the final six innings.

Two-out grand slam rallies KCKCC to dramatic 7-5 win

Daniel LaMunyon (KCKCC photo)

Blue Devils need sweep at Allen today for home playoff berth

by Alan Hoskins

One of the most dramatic blows in Kansas City Kansas Community College baseball history has put the Blue Devils in position to open the Region VI playoffs at home.
Just one strike away from a 5-3 loss to Allen County Saturday, freshman Daniel LaMunyon delivered the ultimate in blows – a grand slam home run on a 1-2 pitch that lifted the Blue Devils to a 7-5 win in the bottom of the ninth.
Coupled with a 9-1 win in the 7-inning opener, the Blue Devils (33-18) can earn a home playoff berth against Seward (29-26) Saturday with a sweep of a 3 p.m. doubleheader at Allen County today. Anything less and the Blue Devils will have to make a 5-hour trip to play Colby (28-22). A double elimination playoff, two games will be played Saturday with a third if necessary on Sunday.
“My first walk off hit,” said LaMunyon, a third baseman from Blue Valley who took advantage of a strong wind blowing to left. “I hit it pretty high and hoped the win would help and it did quite a bit. When I was rounding second, I saw my third base coach (Matt Goldbeck) jumping up and down which was pretty cool and then I got mobbed at home plate.” The home run, which came on a curve ball, was LaMunyon’s fifth of the season and gave him 34 RBI for the season, third best on the team
“It was a really cool moment for the kids,” said KCKCC head coach Steve Burleson, who lost sight of LaMunyon’s game-winning blast. “I couldn’t see the flight of the ball because of the dugout roof and thought it was a fly ball to the leftfielder. All of a sudden all the kids started yelling and then I saw the ball nestle in the hill about 325 feet from home plate.”
Zane Mapes started the winning rally by drawing a leadoff walk. One out later, Tyler Raymond was hit by a pitch and Garrett McKinzie singled to load the bases. Christian Arnold, who had homered in the first game, flied out for the second out before LaMunyon’s game-winner. The blast made a winner out of reliever Derek Watkins (4-0), who gave up only a walk in three hitless innings.
KCKCC jumped in front 2-1 in the second on singles by LaMunyon, Alex Thrower and Mapes and made it 3-1 in the fourth on a pair of Allen errors. Hunter Phillips (8-5) limited the Red Devils to just three hits and an unearned run over the first five innings only to have Allen score four times with two out in the sixth on four hits and three walks.
Geoff Birkemeier (6-4) turned in his ninth complete game of the season in the 9-1 opener, allowing just five hits, striking out three and walking none. The Blue Devils backed him with nine hits including two each by Arnold, LaMunyon and Mapes.
KCKCC scored three times in the first on just one hit, a run-scoring single by Mitch Glessner and sacrifice flies by McKinzie and Arnold; added three more in the second on hits by Mapes, Arnold and LaMunyon and a pair of walks; and then put the game out of reach on Arnold’s team high 10th home run of the season following a double by Luke Norton and a single by Raymond.