Thirteen was the Free State High baseball team's unlucky number Thursday.
As in 13 runners left on base.
"Nine of them were in scoring position," Firebirds coach Mike Hill said, "and you can't beat a good team like that."
Shawnee Mission Northwest didn't waste its opportunities and posted a 6-4 victory on a blustery, showery evening at the Free State field.
The Firebirds scored three runs in the first two innings to grab a 3-0 lead, but left the bases loaded each time. They left seven on in the last five innings.
SM Northwest, the team that eliminated Free State in last spring's Class 6A state tournament, eventually forged a 4-4 deadlock in the top of the fourth.
Then the Cougars' Tyler Shepherd struck the decisive blow in the top of the fifth when he drove a Scott Heitshusen pitch over the left-field fence with a runner on.
"When you make a mistake, it's going to get hit like that," said Heitshusen, who relieved starter Robby Price with two outs in the fourth inning. "I was trying to blow it by him on the outside corner, and he just caught up with it."
Meanwhile, the Firebirds, who had touched SM Northwest starter Matt Page for four runs in the first three innings, were blanked by reliever Corey White the rest of the way.
Mixing fastballs and curves, White fanned seven Firebirds and gave just three harmless singles, two by Price, who went 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI.
"That kid did a good job," Hill said of White, "but we've got to be able to make adjustments."
Brett Lisher went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI, and Lorenzo Ricketts singled in a run. Third baseman Kyle Cross slammed a solo homer off Page in the third, a shot similar to Shepherd's game-winner.
"The wind was blowing out," Hill said, "but both of those would have gone out without the wind."
Thursday's loss was the Firebirds' first in seven starts.
"You always like to win them all," Hill noted, "but the reality is that in most cases it won't be true."
Free State (6-1) will travel to Ice Field on Tuesday for an intracity clash with Lawrence High.
SM Northwest 6, Free State 4
SM Northwest 002 220 0 - 6 7 2
Free State 121 000 0 - 4 11 2
W-Corey White. L-Scott Heitshusen.
2B-Brett Lisher, Robby Price, Free State. HR-Kyle Cross, Free State; Tyler Shepherd, SM NW.
Free State highlights: Price 3-for-5, 2B, RBI; Lorenzo Ricketts, 1-4, RBI; Lisher 2-3, 2B, RBI; Cross 1-for-4, HR.