The Lawrence Raiders refuse to lose.
On the brink of elimination after a loss two days earlier, the Raiders have won three in a row in the Zone Three American Legion AAA baseball tournament at Free State High. The Raiders rocked Shawnee Mission Slam, 11-1, and the Blue Valley West Jaguars, 15-0, on Saturday in run-rule shortened games to reach today's championship.
The Raiders, now 32-17 overall and 4-1 in zone, need two victories today over top-seeded Manhattan to secure a berth in the state tournament later this week in Newton. Lawrence will play Manhattan, 2-0 at zone, at 6 tonight at Free State. If necessary, the two teams will meet at approximately 8:15 tonight in the double-elimination tournament.
"We're determined to play at 8:15 tonight ... yes we are," said Raiders coach Carl Brooks, whose squad bashed 23 hits 12 in first game and 11 in the second on Saturday. "The intensity was just incredible in the last game. It wasn't bad earlier in the day, but it was incredible tonight."
Against Blue Valley West, the Raiders rolled early. Lawrence scored eight runs on six hits in the bottom of the first inning while sending 12 batters to the plate. The key hits were designated hitter Chris Barr's two-run single and center fielder Rob Scott's two-run double.
Lawrence tacked on five runs in the second and two more in the third in a game shortened to 3 1/2 innings because of the run rule. The Jaguars put the Raiders in the loser's bracket on Thursday with a 6-4 win.
"The first time we played Blue Valley we had the opportunity to break the game open and we didn't," Brooks said. "Ever since, we've been swinging the bat well in critical and RBI situations. I kind of scolded them that night after the loss. I told them to step up and be the man. They've all stepped up, and did a heckuva job."
Dallas Worley, Scott, Matt Berner and Josh Swenson had two hits apiece against the Jaguars. Scott drove in three runs.
Lefty Eric Peterson was the winning pitcher. He allowed one hit and struck out five in three innings.
"With a 15-run lead, you just want to come out and throw strikes," said Peterson, who improved to 13-1.
Peterson, who threw approximately 40 pitches against the Jaguars, could throw as many as nine innings today. Brooks plans to start his ace in the first game today.
"Don't be surprised if Pedo goes seven and starts the second game," Brooks said.
Berner, Lawrence's shortstop, went 2-for-3 in each game on Saturday.
"We were all pumped up for this game," said Berner, who remembered the loss to the Jags on Thursday. "We knew we could do it."
For the first time all season, the Raiders were in the third-base dugout, normally reserved for the visiting team. However, Blue Valley West remained in the first-base dugout after a 5-1 loss to Manhattan before playing Lawrence.
"If you ask our guys, them taking our home dugout was another incentive," said Berner, miffed by the dugout infringement. "We sat in that dugout all year long. That's our home dugout."
In the first game Saturday, Kyle Unruh was the winning pitcher, scattering seven hits in four innings. Troy Wingert had three hits to lead Lawrence's onslaught. Worley, Scott, Berner and Derek Bailey had two hits apiece. Bailey delivered a triple in each game.
Lawrence 11, Shawnee Mission Slam 1
SM Slam 001 01 7 1
Lawrence 430 411 12
WP Kyle Unruh. LP Brian White.
2B Lawrence: Rob Scott, Matt Berner. 3B Lawrence: Derek Bailey.
Lawrence 15, Blue Valley West 0
Blue Valley West 000 00 13
Lawrence 852 x15 11 1
WP Eric Peterson. LP J.B. Ferguson.
2B Lawrence: Scott. 3B Lawrence: Bailey, Josh Swenson.
Sports writer Steve Rottinghaus can be reached at 832-7152.