Neither team has lost a game on Kansas soil this season, and the last time these two squads faced each other was in the first round of the 2008 Class 6A state tournament.
Huge storylines in any other rivalry, to be sure. But in the ongoing clash between Lawrence High and Free State, the two new motivating factors represent just another reason to get excited.
Moved to today because of the expectation of more bad weather Monday, the LHS and FSHS baseball teams will square off at noon at Free State in the first of two city showdowns this season.
“Saturday at noon on a nice day, there’ll be a bunch of people there,” LHS coach Brad Stoll said. “That’s this game, though. It always generates so much excitement.”
The Lions (4-2) enter the game on the heels of four straight victories, three of them by shutout. LHS dropped its first two games of the season at a tournament in Oklahoma and responded with three straight convincing victories and a one-run victory Thursday night.
During their current winning streak, the Lions have surrendered just one run. Their recent success has caught the eye of today’s opposing coach.
“This is going to be a good growing experience for us because we’re not on their level yet,” Free State coach Mike Hill said. “It will be good for us to go against a team of their caliber.”
The same might be said for the more experienced Lawrence High team, which faces a Free State squad that has yet to lose this season. The Firebirds enter today’s game with a 6-0 record and with more than half a dozen new faces in their lineup from the team that lost to LHS as the No. 1 seed at state last season.
Both teams will send two of their strongest starting pitchers to the mound for today’s game.
Free State will go with junior Ryan Scott, and LHS will counter with senior Andy Urban. Both had big-time success in their most recent outings. Urban tossed a five-inning no-hitter against Shawnee Mission North on April 3, and Scott picked up a win against Blue Valley North by pitching five innings with five strikeouts, two hits, one walk and no runs.
Today’s contest will count toward the Sunflower League standings, while the May 14 meeting at Kansas University’s Hoglund Ballpark will not.
“We don’t put any extra stock in this game because of who it is,” Hill said. “It's a Sunflower League game for us and another chance for us, as a young team, to improve.”
While agreeing about the game’s importance in terms of the league standings and the chance to improve, Stoll went a step farther in describing the matchup.
“I’d be lying if I told you it was just another game,” Stoll said. “But I do think it’s great to play this one early in the year because by the time we play them again in May, all the emotions from this one will be gone.”