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Archive for Sunday, July 30, 2006

Raiders advance at state

Lawrence cruises past Blue Valley, 10-0; Emporia up next

July 30, 2006

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— Five games into the American Legion baseball postseason, it seems the Lawrence Raiders still haven't been told they are supposed to play nine-inning games.

Once again, the Raiders run-ruled their opponent after seven innings - the earliest the run-rule can take effect.

The latest: a 10-0 rout of Blue Valley West on Saturday in the second round of AAA American Legion state tournament at Dean Evans Stadium.

It's not that the Raiders don't want to play nine innings, it's that they don't exactly need to.

"We're just in that zone right now," Raiders coach Troy Wingert said. "We're in a good groove offensively. : We're hitting the baseball where it's pitched, and that's extremely important when we're in the state tournament."

But the offense isn't the only prolific part of this Raiders team. Outfielder Scott Heitshusen showed how well the Raiders are performing defensively when he was able to gun down the runner at first after the ball squirted through the right side of the infield.

"We're just playing good ball right now," said Raiders' first baseman Lorenzo Ricketts, who had a solo home run in the fourth inning. "We played real crisp ball tonight."

There's also the fact that they received 10 free bases via walks - which is how Tyler Knight started off the night at the plate for the Raiders - or hit batsmen, bringing their total to 27 free trips to first base in the tournament.

"I don't know if people are just trying to pitch around us because we have a solid lineup - one through nine," Raiders catcher Andy Petz said.

In contrast, Raiders pitching has given up two walks - with no hit batters - thus far, with both walks being issued by Travis Blankenship, the winning pitcher over the Jaguars.

Though Blankenship and Heitshusen get recognized for the wins, it has been the man behind the mask - Petz - who has kept the pitching staff in control.

"Those Free State kids have had Andy the last three years, so they feel very comfortable with what he does back there," Wingert said. "He knows his pitchers very well. : Andy and Patrick (Johnson) are both a very big piece of this puzzle, and without either one of them, we would suffer. I can't key on one or the other, but Andy has been doing an outstanding job for us."

Next for the Raiders is Emporia a team they run-ruled, 17-7, in the regular-season finale at 5 p.m. today in the winner's bracket final.

"It's not that we don't like to play, but it's definitely nice to save pitching," Petz said. "When you've got to play four games in four days, it's limited pitching. We don't have that problem, but it's still nice to be able to stay with our starting pitchers all the way through and save it."

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