Archive for Thursday, May 12, 2005

Pitching-heavy Free State awaits LHS

May 12, 2005


By most reckoning, Mike Hill would be strapped for pitching this week.

Hill's Free State High baseball team will be playing its third game in four days today when it meets Lawrence High.

What, Hill worry?

"Our problem is, we've got too much pitching," the Firebirds' coach said. "We have five quality arms, and the problem is getting them enough work."

Too much pitching? That's a rarity, particularly in the high school ranks.

"Yeah, when's the last time you heard that?" Hill said, smiling. "But I'd rather have that problem than the opposite."

Deep pitching and booming hitting have carried the Firebirds to a 16-3 record and a probable No. 2 seed in next week's Class 6A sub-state. Manhattan has a half-game lead on Free State for the No. 1 seed.

Meanwhile, Lawrence High will bring an 8-11 record into the 5:30 p.m. game at Ice Field. The Lions are likely to be a No. 4 or 5 seed next week and have to travel to Manhattan.

On the plus side, the Lions appear to have solved the defensive woes that plagued them through midseason.

"It was pretty ugly for a while," Lions' coach Brad Stoll said about his team's fielding, "but the kids have done a great job of making adjustments defensively."

Free State toppled the Lions, 8-3, more than a month ago at the Firebirds' field. That game counted in the Sunflower League standings. Today's game does not. In fact, the Firebirds clinched the school's third straight league title with a 13-3 romp over Shawnee Mission East Tuesday.

Thus, today's game means nothing from league-standings and sub-state standpoints, but everything when it comes to bragging rights.

"The game is going to have a lot of meaning for the kids involved," Stoll said.

Hill probably will start Jake Hoover, his ace, against the Lions today. In the first meeting, Hoover hurled the last four innings, allowing no runs and fanning seven.

On the flip side, Stoll plans to use David Freeman, normally his closer, in a rare starting role. Freeman has opened on the mound just twice, yet Stoll thinks the senior left-hander may have success against the Firebirds' potent lineup.

"He's a different arm than he was two or three weeks ago, we feel," Stoll said. "Also, they saw Will Falk, and we're trying to change up."

Falk, another left-hander, was the losing pitcher in the first meeting. The Lions led 2-1 after three innings, then the Firebirds exploded for six runs in the fourth, highlighted by Brett Lisher's bases-loaded triple.

Stoll's only right-handed starter, Matt Wingert, pitched in Tuesday night's 9-6 loss at Olathe East.

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