Archive for Sunday, June 1, 2008

Raiders eye another state title

June 1, 2008

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In the spring, they are foes. In the summer, they're teammates.

So it goes with the Raiders, the city American Legion senior baseball team that puts Lawrence and Free State high players in the same uniform.

That amalgam of the city's best baseball players produced four consecutive Legion state titles (2003-06) before the streak ended last year when the Raiders bowed to Salina in the championship game.

"We want to get back to where we were," second-year coach Shaun Edmondson said. "No question, that's our goal."

Edmondson, also head baseball coach at Eudora High, has nine returnees from last year's Raiders' squad that finished with a 31-17 record and fell one game short of a fifth straight state title.

Two of the nine returning players were college freshmen during the just-completed school year - first baseman/outfielder Ben Wilson (Garden City CC) and pitcher/outfielder Drew Hulse (Washburn).

The other seven Raiders back are Free State's Hunter Scheib, Caleb Gress, Alex Hardman and Travis Spurling; Lawrence High's Joe Kornbrust and Travis Sanders; and Eudora's Matthew Abel.

"Both Lawrence teams went to state, and both were close to taking championships," Edmondson said, "so it's pretty clear what our main objective is."

Free State won the Sunflower League title and was the top seed in the Class 6A state tournament over the Memorial Day weekend in Topeka. However, Lawrence High stunned the Firebirds, 4-3, in the first round of the state tournament before bowing to eventual state champ Blue Valley, 2-0, in the semifinals.

Among the six newcomers on the Raiders' 15-man roster are four Lions - Aaron Rea, Clint Pinnick, Jake Green and Tom Schuh - and one Firebird - Tyler Hatesohl. Also in that mix is Bill Gadberry, a Eudora High product.

Gress and Schuh, both left-handers, were the top pitchers for the Firebirds and Lions, respectively, and head the Raiders' six-man mound staff. Also scheduled for slab work are Kornbrust, Hulse, Hardman and Spurling.

Scheib and Rea figure to form the Raiders' keystone combination with Pinnick at third base and either Wilson and Kornbrust at first base. Wilson played left field last year and could wind up there again with Abel in center and Hardman in right.

"We haven't really pigeonholed guys," Edmondson said. "We'll feel things out during the first couple of weeks."

Green, who played left field for the Lions this spring, has been switched to catcher and will be backed by Gadberry.

Edmondson's assistant coaches are John Maynard, who is also his aide at Eudora High, and Bryn Biancalana, a KU student majoring in sports management. Biancalana is a son of former Royals infielder Buddy Biancalana.

The Raiders are scheduled to open with a doubleheader against the K.C. Royals at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Ice Field. Then they'll play a road doubleheader on Wednesday before returning to Ice Field on Thursday to tangle with Coffeyville.

"We'll hit the ground running," Edmondson said. "After those three doubleheaders we'll go right to a weekend tournament in Emporia."

Most of the Raiders' home games will be played at Ice Field because the city's four Junior Legion teams will be using Free State High's field. The Raiders will play three games of the Al Ice Tournament in early July at Hoglund Ballpark.

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