Sweep vaults KCKCC into fifth place tie in Jayhawk Conference

by Alan Hoskins

Shutout pitching by Geoff Birkemeier and reliever Hunter Phillips carried Kansas City Kansas Community College to a doubleheader sweep of Labette Thursday.

Birkemeier threw a two-hit gem in shutting out the Cardinals 5-0 in the opener while Phillips retired the final 10 batters as the Blue Devils rallied for an 8-7 win in the nightcap.

The sweep vaulted the Blue Devils (23-17) into a fifth place Jayhawk Conference tie with Independence, both 14-12 with 10 games remaining starting with a return doubleheader against Labette in Parsons Saturday.

KCKCC’s final eight games will be played against Highland April 17-19 and Allen County April 24-26.

Trailing 7-6 in the bottom of the eighth of the second game, the Blue Devils put runners on second and third with one out on a hit batsman, a single by Daniel LaMunyon and, a sacrifice bunt by Eric Hinostroza.

An attempted squeeze play with Sam Baxter at the plate misfired but pinchrunner Alex Thrower escaped a rundown to score the tying run and the winning running scored moments later on Baxter’s ground ball to short.

The rally made a winner out of Phillips, who came on in the sixth inning with two on and one out, served up an inning-ending double play pitch and then set down the Cardinals in order the final three innings.

KCKCC took advantage of Labette miscues to build a 5-0 lead. Lucas Norton’s bunt single to lead off was the only hit in a two-run first inning while an error opened the door for a 3-run third that included the first of three singles by Zane Mapes, Norton’s second hit, a sacrifice fly by Tyler Raymond and an RBI single by Garrett McKinzie.

Preston Bailey got the mound start but had to be lifted in a four-run fourth with an arm injury.

Labette then went ahead 7-5 in the sixth, scoring three runs off Cole Frackes on an error, two singles and a walk before Phillips came on to slam the door on the Cardinals.

KCKCC closed back to 7-6 in the bottom of the sixth on Mapes’ two-out single following a single by Mitch Glessner and a walk.

Birkemeier retired the Cardinals in order in the five of seven innings and faced only three men over the minimum in the opener.

A two-out double in the third following an error and a two-out single in the seventh were the only hits off Birkemeier, who struck out three and walked none.

“I thought Geoff Birkemeier was throwing well enough to throw a no-hitter,” said KCKCC coach Steve Burleson. “He pitched impeccably. The second game we were a little bit luckier than good.”

The Blue Devils bunched all of their six hits in the first three innings in the 5-0 win.

Norton was hit to start the game, moved up on Raymond’s single and scored on a wild pitch in the first and Mapes and Norton rapped back-to-back triples following Eric Hinostroza’s single for a 3-0 lead in the second.

Bunt singles by LaMunyon and Mapes following an error, walk and Hinostroza’s sacrifice fly plated the final two runs in the third.

Blue Devils collect 16 hits in 21st win of season

by Alan Hoskins

Pounding out 16 hits in an 11-4 win over Saint Mary’s JV Tuesday, Kansas City Kansas Community College’s baseball focus immediately swung back to Jayhawk Conference play.

At home to Labette for a 1 p.m. doubleheader today, the Blue Devils face a return meeting with Labette in Parsons Saturday.

Six Blue Devils had two hits each as the Blue Devils improved to 21-17.

Garret McKinzie doubled twice, Tyler Raymond doubled and singled and Lucas Norton, Mitch Glessner, Sam Baxter and Alex Thrower had two singles each.

KCKCC jumped in front early, scoring twice in the first on a single by Norton, double by Raymond, Christian Arnold’s sacrifice fly and Glessner’s RBI single and added single runs in the second and third.

Zane Mapes’ squeeze bunt scored Thrower in the second; Glessner drove in his second run after a McKinzie double in the third.

McKinzie and Arnold had back-to-back doubles in a 2-run fifth; two more scored on singles by Norton and Raymond and an error in the sixth; and the final three crossed in the seventh on singles by Baxter , Hunter Walsh, Tanner Foerschler, hit batsman and an error.

Three Blue Devil hurlers combined on a 5-hitter in the 9-inning contest.

Starter Spencer Nielsen gave up just one hit and no earned runs in four innings; Derek Watkins retired six of the first seven eight hitters he faced before St. Mary broke through for three runs and three hits in the seventh; and Jonathan May finished up, allowing one hit and striking out two in 2.2 innings.

Blue Devils split with Independence; home Tuesday, Thursday

by Alan Hoskins

Kansas City Kansas Community College turned back Independence in a 3-2 opening game thriller Saturday but couldn’t repeat in the nightcap, losing 4-2.

The split left the Blue Devils (12-12) two games back of Independence (14-10) in the race for fifth in the Jayhawk Conference.

KCKCC is right back home Tuesday, playing host to St. Mary JV in a single 9-inning game at 4 p.m., and again Thursday in a doubleheader against Labette starting at 1 p.m.

Winner of 15 of its last 17 games, KCKCC is 20-17 overall.

E.J. Merlo pitched himself out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh to get his third win in Saturday’s 3-2 opener.

A dropped fly ball opened the inning and the Pirates loaded the bases on a single and two-out walk before Merlo struck out Dustin Oliver for the third time, his only strikeouts of the game.

Merlo allowed only five hits, two in the fourth when Indy scored its only runs on a walk, single, error and double.

KCKCC took a 1-0 lead in the third on a leadoff single by Tanner Foerschler, a sacrifice bunt by Zane Mapes and Luke Norton’s run-scoring single and then erased Indy’s 2-1 lead with two runs in the fourth.

After Christian Arnold reached on an error, Eric Hinostroza doubled. Mitch Glessner’s ground ball scored Arnold with the tying run and Daniel LaMunyon singled in Hinostroza for what was the game-winner.

Indy took a 2-0 lead in the third in the nightcap, scoring twice on a double, single and an error that made one of the runs unearned against KCKCC starter Hunter Phillips, and then added two insurance runs in the sixth with two out, scoring on a single, hit batsman, double and bases-loaded walk.

Tyler Raymond launched his first home run of the season in the eighth inning to go along with a double and single.

Garrett McKinzie also had three hits including a run-scoring single in the third following a hit batsman and ground ball. Pirate hurlers combined to retire 13 of the final 14 batters faced.