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Archive for Sunday, March 27, 2005

Firebirds debut with run-rule victory

March 27, 2005

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Free State High's baseball team opened its season Saturday afternoon. Finally.

"We were champing at the bit," Free State coach Mike Hill said.

Chilly 40-degree temperatures and an overcast sky at the Firebirds' diamond didn't dampen their enthusiasm as they chomped Blue Valley Northwest, 12-0, in a game shortened to five innings by the 10-run rule.

While many of their schoolmates were on spring break last week, the Firebirds stayed in town because games were scheduled Tuesday and Friday. Both either were rained out or called because of wet grounds.

"It got old after a few days," said senior Jake Hoover, who doubled and singled and drove in three runs Saturday, "but it was worth the wait."

The Firebirds stroked eight hits -- actually nine, but Lorenzo Ricketts was called out for failing to touch first base when he apparently had doubled down the right-field line -- and took advantage of six BV Northwest errors.

"I'm very pleased the way we played," Hill said. "We were aggressive at the plate, yet we struck out just twice. And Hoover had two two-out hits."

Hill also like the fact that Ricketts, his No. 7 hitter, and No. 9 hitter Cory Cooper had doubles, and No. 8 hitter Andy Petz singled.

"It's not often you have kids who can hit in every hole," Hill said. "I think we're strong up and down the lineup."

Right-hander Travis Blankenship started and went three innings, surrendering a pair of singles and fanning four. Left-hander Max Ellenbecker pitched two hitless innings.

"The only bad thing is that we went only five innings," Hill said, "and we wanted to use all three of our starters today."

Hoover is the Firebirds' other starter, yet he wasn't complaining about not stepping on the mound.

"It would have been nice to have pitched," he said, "but I'd rather we scored 12 runs in five innings."

Hill also had hoped to use Scott Heitshusen, his closer, in the seventh inning. Heitshusen did play, though, contributing a double and a single to the Firebirds' attack.

Hill scheduled games during spring break because the Sunflower League schools in Johnson County were off the previous week and were playing. That, Hill reckoned, would put the Firebirds at a disadvantage.

"I wanted us to get some games in before league starts next week," Hill said.

The Firebirds' league opener is Wednesday at home against Olathe Northwest, so the plan was to play Kansas City Washington on Tuesday and BV Northwest on Friday.

But the Washington game was rained out, rescheduled for Wednesday and called off again. Then it was re-set for Monday, but now that game is off again because, Hill said, Washington can't play that day.

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