Any Lawrence High-Free State game is a must-win -- but that's an understatement this late in the season.
The 3:30 showdown this afternoon at FSHS Field has bragging rights and regional-seeding implications. Big? Without a doubt.
"These games are important, no question," FSHS coach Pam Pine said. "For our seeding, if we win the next two doubleheaders, from what I've seen, that'll put us in the middle of the pack."
The Firebirds (4-10) follow up LHS with a trip Thursday to Shawnee Mission East before regionals begin Tuesday.
LHS coach Reenie Stogsdill, whose team is coming off a win Monday against defending state champion Shawnee Mission Northwest, takes it one step further.
"I don't care about bragging rights," she said. "We're looking at these two games as important as far as seeding goes. Those two games are huge, and we really need two wins."
The Lions (10-8) have won three of their last four and own an 8-2 series lead, but Stogsdill won't take FSHS lightly.
"We're going to have to score some runs," she said. "Our offense has got to get going, and get going early. I know Free State will be geared up. It doesn't matter what, they always step it up a level and want to beat us."
It's that LHS offense that scares Pine.
The Firebirds, who only have one senior on a young roster, can be error-prone. But, if they can limit mental mistakes and string together a few hits, they'll hang with LHS.
That's a big if.
"Defensive-wise, we're going to have to play errorless ball," Pine said.
"They hit the ball hard and they hit it a lot."
Leading that hit parade is freshman Drew Huff, who leads LHS with a .421 batting average and had the game-winning RBI Monday. Three other Lions also hit over .300.
That'll make things tough on junior pitcher Felicia Freeman, but if she has an advantage, it's a familiarity with the Lions.
And in a game like this, familiarity can make the difference.
"They've all played together at one time or another," Pine said. "They know their strengths and weaknesses, and Reenie and I do, too. It's just gonna be up to them to come through."