Turns out Free State High's baseball team doesn't have to score double-digit runs to win games.
The Firebirds failed to score 10 or more runs in a game for the first time since April 6, but won their ninth straight game -- a 5-3 victory against Shawnee Mission Northwest -- on Thursday afternoon at the FSHS field.
The Firebirds (13-3 overall, 10-2 Sunflower League) average almost 10 runs per game and have won by as many as 19 runs this season, but coach Mike Hill said he was happy about the low-scoring affair because it tested his team's resiliency.
"You're not going to win championships beating somebody 18-0 or 11-1. You're going to win close ballgames," Hill said. "I was pleased we were in this type of game, and I like the way we responded. We won the ballgame because we played really good defense and because Jake Hoover battled on the mound."
Hoover and the Firebird defense gave Free State a chance against Northwest (4-7).
Cougar starting pitcher Andy Anderson effectively mixed his pitches while striking out five, forcing the Firebirds into numerous ground outs.
"Sometimes it takes one time through the lineup -- sometimes two -- but the hits will eventually come," said Hoover, who went 2-for-3 at the plate. "If we just put the ball in play good things will happen, so we just kept doing what we've been doing all year."
Before the hits came for FSHS, Northwest tagged Hoover for four hits in the top of the third and built a 2-0 lead. The Firebirds tied it in the bottom of the inning when Anthony Dreiling singled and later scored on Robby Price's double. Price then scored when the Northwest left fielder dropped Scott Heitshusen's sharp line drive, tying the game at 2-all.
The Cougars recaptured the lead with a run in the top of the fifth, but Free State quickly rallied in the bottom of the inning. Brett Lisher reached base on a fielder's choice, then Heitshusen and Hoover both singled to load the bases. A throwing error following Paul Metzler's ground ball allowed two runs to score. Hoover later scored on a wild pitch for the 5-3 lead.
Free State will go for its 10th straight victory on Tuesday at Olathe East.