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Archive for Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Firebirds, in a rout

FSHS rebounds for 12-1 victory

April 12, 2006

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Free State High baseball coach Mike Hill admits he often talks in cliches, and one of his favorites during the opening three weeks of the 2006 season has centered on the many questions he still needs answered regarding his current squad.

The Firebirds took care of one of those queries in stellar fashion Tuesday night: They proved they know how to respond to a loss.

Riding a lineup full of hot bats and the surprising pitching prowess of senior Robby Price, Free State turned this spring's first city showdown into a one-sided affair, earning a commanding 12-1 victory over Lawrence High in a game shortened to five innings by the mercy rule at Ice Field.

"We challenged the kids a little bit. We took one on the chin a little bit the other day, leaving nine kids on base," Hill said, referring to Thursday's home loss to Shawnee Mission Northwest.

"I'm very impressed with the way we played (Tuesday) against a fine team. Lawrence High can play. I thought we played very, very well, particularly swinging the bats. Even our outs were hard outs."


Free State High third baseman Kyle Cross dives for a first-inning grounder during the Firebirds' 12-1 rout of Lawrence High. FSHS beat its city rival Tuesday at Ice Field.

Free State High third baseman Kyle Cross dives for a first-inning grounder during the Firebirds' 12-1 rout of Lawrence High. FSHS beat its city rival Tuesday at Ice Field.

The Firebirds (7-1) scored multiple runs in four innings - including a five-run fifth to force the early finish - pounded out 10 hits and had four players drive in at least two runs.

Price again proved to be the catalyst at the top of the order, going 2-for-2 and reaching base in all four of his plate appearances, including a leadoff walk to open the game that led to two quick runs and a lead Free State never relinquished.

"I'm just supposed to be a guy to set the table," Price said. "I need to be on base and contribute."

The pop came deeper in the order courtesy of senior Scott Heitshusen, who opened the floodgates with a three-run double in the third, then added a ground-rule double down the left-field line to spark the final five-run frame.

"That was big for us, to come out and basically hit every ball hard," said Heitshusen, who finished 2-for-3.

Lawrence High's Brian Heere lays out for a second-inning pop fly. Heere caught the ball, ending the inning.

Lawrence High's Brian Heere lays out for a second-inning pop fly. Heere caught the ball, ending the inning.

Meanwhile, Price helped ease another of Hill's many concerns - finding enough quality pitching during a four-game week - with a strong performance on the mound. Known for his offensive skills and slick glove at shortstop, the right-hander improved to 2-0 after allowing just three singles and an unearned run in four innings. He struck out seven LHS hitters.

"For him to go out and do what he did tonight helps us immensely," said Hill, who also gave Heitshusen one inning just to keep his relief ace sharp.

While everything went according to plan for the Firebirds, the same couldn't be said for LHS (4-4).

Left-hander Daren Parker struggled with his control from the start, walking his first two hitters and leaving too many hittable fastballs over the plate against the heart of the Free State order. He lasted just three innings, surrendering seven runs, six of them earned.


Lawrence High's Brian Heere flops after catching a pop-up in the second inning. Despite the defensive gem, the Lions fell to Free State, 12-1, Tuesday at Ice Field.

Lawrence High's Brian Heere flops after catching a pop-up in the second inning. Despite the defensive gem, the Lions fell to Free State, 12-1, Tuesday at Ice Field.

Meanwhile, the Lions' lineup never figured out Price, plating their lone run when left fielder Michael Sickinger reached on an error, stole second and came around on a two-out RBI single by catcher Brett Sims in the fourth inning.

"We got embarrassed, and we got thumped by a solid team," LHS coach Brad Stoll said. "Our inability to keep them off the basepaths and our inability to get on the basepaths just killed us.

"Apparently, I didn't do a good job getting these guys ready to play."

Both teams will take today off before returning to action Thursday in the first day of the River City Festival in Lawrence. Free State opens at 7 p.m. Thursday against Shawnee Mission North at Kansas University's Hoglund Ballpark, while LHS plays at the same time against Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst at Ice Field.

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