Olathe Chalk up another Sunflower League baseball championship for Free State High. But write it on the back door.
Olathe North stunned the Firebirds, 4-3, after overcoming a 3-1 deficit in the last two innings in the league finale for both teams Tuesday evening at Olathe District Activities Center.
"It's a tough one," Free State pitcher Travis Blankenship said. "Losing like that is hard."
The loss prevented the Firebirds from capturing the league title outright. They'll have to share their fourth straight Sunflower crown with Shawnee Mission North. Both schools ended with 9-2 records.
"If they want to say we shared, that's fine," Free State coach Mike Hill said, "but in my book we're league champions because we beat (SM) North during the season."
Regardless, Hill was not a happy man after the Firebirds (16-3) frittered the two-run lead. Left-hander Blankenship left after five innings with a 3-1 advantage, surrendering only two hits and striking out seven.
But the defense unraveled when right-hander Scott Heitshusen took over on the mound.
Errors by third baseman Jordan Dreiling and shortstop Robbie Price helped Olathe North cut the deficit to one in the sixth, then an uncharged miscue helped the Eagles score the winning run.
Heitshusen plunked opposing pitcher Dallas May to open the fateful seventh. Minutes later, May was sacrificed to second, then scored on a single up the middle by Jason Mullins for forge a 3-3 deadlock and when Free State centerfielder Hunter Scheib air-mailed a throw to the backstop, Mullins advanced to second.
Heitshusen settled down and fanned Eric Dawson for the second out, but his first pitch to Josh Gore, the next O-North batter, was disastrous.
The pitch bounced in front of home plate. Worse, the ball ricocheted off catcher Andy Petz, went bounding away, and Petz had no idea where it was. By the time Petz located the ball, Mullins had crossed home plate with the clincher.
"We throw the ball to the backstop and that gets us beat," Hill said. "Bonehead stuff will get you in trouble."
Free State collected only three hits off May, one a solo homer by designated hitter Ben Wilson in the second inning.
"Their pitcher did a real nice job," Hill said, "but we didn't come to play. That was obvious. Despite getting only three hits, we should win if we do the things we needed to do."
Free State has one more game before Class 6A sub-states begin next week. The Firebirds will meet Lawrence High in a non-league contest at 7 p.m. Thursday at Hoglund Ballpark.
"If we play like we did tonight," Hill said, "we'll have a five-inning game and another loss."