The No. 7 certainly proved lucky Saturday for Free State High's baseball team -- twice.
The Firebirds swept a home doubleheader with Shawnee Mission East, 4-3 and 2-1, by scoring one run in the bottom of the seventh in the first game and two runs in their final at-bat in the second game at the FSHS field.
"We didn't make a lot of progress as a team today, with the exception of maybe on the mound," FSHS coach Mike Hill said. "I told them we were lucky. Sometimes luck's a part of baseball. We're certainly not going to give them (the wins) back."
Although Free State (9-2 overall, 8-1 Sunflower League) struggled offensively -- managing only three extra-base hits and being no-hit for six innings in the second game -- its pitching also kept SM East (2-8, 2-8) in check.
FSHS senior pitcher Matt Hicks (2-1) allowed one run on one hit while striking out 14 in seven innings.
"It seems bigger now than when it was happening," Hicks said of the strikeout total. "You don't count them while you're out there. I was giving (FSHS senior pitcher Brett) Bogard a hard time because I think I'm catching him for the league lead. He was getting a little nervous."
The Firebirds rallied for two runs in the bottom half of the seventh to give Hicks the win. FSHS senior Matt Maigaard ended the no-hitter with a leadoff single and scored on junior Cooper Chapin's triple into the right-field corner.
After a groundout and a lineout, junior John Swenson drew a walk and senior Matt Heider promptly drilled the first pitch he saw between the shortstop and third baseman for the game-winning RBI.
"You're just hoping they get it tied so you can go back out there for the eighth," Hicks said. "You just don't want to go down losing 1-0. They (the Free State offense) battled hard. You've got to give them a lot of credit."
Swenson also played a prominent role in the last inning of the first game.
After senior Bix Ellenbecker opened the seventh with a triple over the center fielder, and two intentional walks loaded the bases, Swenson ripped a 1-2 pitch past the drawn-in infield for the win.
"The kids who came through are kids with composure," Hill said. "John Swenson, I can't say enough about John. He's the type of kid you love to coach."
FSHS senior pitcher Brandon Johnson was the beneficiary of Swenson's clutch hitting, boosting his record to 2-1. He allowed three runs on six hits while fanning 10 in seven innings.
Ellenbecker's triple, his second of the game, also was a welcomed relief for the catcher.
"I felt like I couldn't spit in the ocean off a boat for about three or four games," Ellenbecker said. "Finally I'm starting to get the bat around. Eventually our offense as a whole will start to come around."
The Firebirds, who improved to 7-1 at home this year, will play the rest of their games on the road until the season finale May 11 against Lawrence High. Free State's next game is Wednesday at Olathe East.
"We didn't do a lot of things right like we should have," Ellenbecker said, "and we're not swinging the bat like we need to. But a win's a win. We're happy to take them."
Free State 4, SM East 3
SM East 030 000 0 -- 3 6 2
Free State 200 100 1 -- 4 11 0
Jamie Allen and Nick Reddell; Brandon Johnson and Bix Ellenbecker. WP -- Johnson (2-1). LP -- Allen.
2B -- Zach White, SME. 3B -- Ellenbecker 2.
Free State 2, SM East 1
SM East 001 000 0 -- 1 1 2
Free State 000 000 2 -- 2 3 1
Greg Williams and David Bates; Matt Hicks and Bix Ellenbecker. WP -- Hicks (2-1). LP -- Williams.
3B -- Cooper Chapin, Free State.