Not a bad 24 hours
A little more than 12 hours after being voted Lawrence High's Most Valuable Player by his teammates, LHS senior hurler Tom Schuh pitched one of the most memorable games of his life.
Despite loading the bases in the first and last innings, Schuh emerged unscathed, recording his sixth victory of the season and helping LHS advance to the semifinals of the Class 6A state baseball tournament.
All week the LHS players talked about how experience might play a role in determining the outcome of Friday's game. It appears it may have.
While a handful of Free State's starters were experiencing the state scene for the first time on Friday, LHS had six players take the field with a state tournament game under his belt.
Underrated no longer
Leading up to Friday's showdown, LHS catcher Chase Muder was adamant about the fact that the Lions' pitching staff was underrated.
"Dorian's so laid back, Tommy's a quiet guy and Joe's quiet, too," said Muder referring to starters Dorian Green, Tommy Schuh and closer Joe Kornbrust. "I really do think our staff's underrated. We have one of the best staffs in the state."
Break out the mowers
Friday's first round at Hummer Sports Complex in Topeka was played on one of the most unusual fields either team had seen all season.
For starters, the outfield fence was chain link, allowing players and fans to see through it, creating difficulty with depth perception. In addition, the field was surrounded by a large warning track that went all the way around home plate, creating a nightmare for both catchers when trying to retrieve balls in the spacious area behind homeplate.
The most glaring abnormality, however, was the length of the infield grass, which measured as high as five inches in spots and deadened just about every ball hit in the infield.
LHS junior Aaron Rea opened the game by smoking a ground ball to shortstop. But instead of playing the ball as he normally would, Free State shortstop Hunter Scheib ferociously charged the ball and still could not throw out the speedy Rea.
The infield grass played a part in at least four base hits on Friday.
Friday's game drew loads of interest from the city, as hundreds of fans made the trek to Topeka to watch the quarterfinal showdown.
But several of those fans were forced to stand because of limited bleacher space at the field.
Harrod on hand
Former LHS coach Lynn Harrod, who guided the Lions to the school's first state baseball title in 1996, was on hand to watch Friday's game.
Several other current LHS and FSHS coaches also attended, with football coaches Dirk Wedd and Bob Lisher even making guest appearances on KLWN's radio broadcast.
He cut that?
When Scheib grounded to shortstop in the bottom of the third inning, he sent Rea so deep into the hole that Lions' third baseman Clint Pinnick actually cut off Rea's throw to first base.
Rea's range at short kept Scheib from advancing on the play, but, after stealing second, the Free State senior scored two batters later on E.J. Swanson's RBI single.
Perhaps the best defensive play of the game came from LHS right fielder Tyler Bailey.
In the bottom of the fifth, with the score tied at 1-1, Free State's Adam Rock sent a shot to right field, where Bailey got a great jump and made a feet-first, sliding grab. The Firebirds went down in order that inning and in the sixth Bailey added to his memorable day with an RBI double that plated the Lions' third run.