Archive for Thursday, April 8, 1999


April 8, 1999


Free State High's new baseball field might as well be called the Field of Dreams.

The only thing missing from the Firebirds' sweep in their home-opening doubleheader with Shawnee Mission South, 2-0 and 5-4, was stalks of corn in the outfield.

"I don't know if you could script it any better," FSHS coach Mike Hill said, "in terms of how hard we played, the crowd we got, the weather we got. It was just an all-around great day for our program."

The first doubleheader at the FSHS field even included an ending sure to satisfy any Hollywood executive.

After the Raiders (2-4 overall, 2-4 Sunflower League) had rallied to knot the nightcap at 4-4 with two runs in the top of the sixth inning, the Firebirds (3-1, 2-0) answered in extra innings.

With one out in the bottom of the eighth, FSHS junior first baseman Nate Vail launched the first home run at the FSHS field into the visiting bullpen beyond the left-field wall.

"I was struggling all night at the plate," said Vail, whose first home run as a Firebird traveled an estimated 340 feet. "I went 0-fer in the first game. Then I got my first hit in the second game. I felt pretty good and I got a little confidence. I saw that last pitch in the zone and it felt good off the bat."

There never was any question about the historic homer, which completed just the second sweep in school history.

"No doubt," Hill said. "That was a no-doubter. That's one where you really don't have to turn and look. With the aluminum bat, from the sound sometimes, you know."

One of the first Firebirds out of the dugout to meet Vail was FSHS junior pitcher Brandon Johnson, who picked up the win after tossing two shutout innings.

It wasn't an easy win, though, as Johnson put Raiders on first and second with two outs in the top of the eighth before retiring the final hitter on a come-backer to the mound.

"I kind of had a rough outing last time (against SM West)," Johnson said. "I came out there and I started out real well. I wouldn't say I got worried ... well, I guess you could say I kind of got worried when I walked that guy and beaned (the next batter).

"But I knew everything was going to come through in the end."

Starting pitcher Matt Hicks allowed just four runs on four hits while whiffing eight before giving way to Johnson.

The first game of the afternoon wasn't nearly as exciting as FSHS senior pitcher Brett Bogard dominated SM South with a four-hit, complete-game shutout.

Not only was the 10-strikeout outing the first shutout in school history, but also came against a team averaging 10 runs a game.

"To do it against a club that hits as well as they do is particularly pleasing," Hill said. "You can't say enough about the job our pitchers did. I think Brett's performance speaks for itself. There's not many adjectives I can use to describe it."

Senior outfielder Matt Maigaard was 2-for-2 in the first game with both RBIs and a walk for Free State, who will host a doubleheader with Olathe South on Tuesday.

Free State 2, Shawnee Mission South 0

SM South 000 000 0 -- 0 4 0

Free State 101 000 x -- 2 4 0

Brent Wolf and Hank Edwards; Brett Bogard and Bix Ellenbecker. WP -- Bogard, 2-0. LP -- Wolf. 2B -- Matt Maigaard, FSHS.

Free State 5, SM South 4, 8 innings

SM South 020 002 00 -- 4 4 2

Free State 002 110 01 -- 5 7 2

Kevin Barncord and Chris Schultz (8) and Hank Edwards; Matt Hicks and Brandon Johnson (7) and Bix Ellenbecker. WP -- Johnson, 1-0. LP -- Schultz. 2B -- Cooper Chapin, Skip Skahan, Nate Vail and Matt Maigaard, FSHS. 3B -- Mario Collins and Edwards, SMS. HR -- Vail, FSHS.

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