Free State High’s baseball scoreboard looked like something only a computer could love.
FSHS and visiting Shawnee Mission South put up nothing but ones and zeros — lots and lots of zeros — for 11 innings Tuesday night before Free State lit up a final one.
The Firebirds battled the Raiders to a rather binary 2-1, 11-inning victory in a game in which neither team scored in the middle seven innings despite several chances.
“We finally got one,” Firebird sophomore Joe Dineen said after driving in the winning run with an infield grounder in the 11th.
The victory was Free State’s first in six tries this season, a bit of a shock to a tradition-rich program that counts nine Sunflower League titles since 1999 and a state crown, in 2006, in its history.
“It’s about time,” Dineen said. “(Losing) does make you press a little bit, but it just makes you play harder.”
In many ways, FSHS didn’t look like a one-win team Tuesday. Starter J.D. Prochaska and winner Sam Hearnen (1-0) allowed just six hits over the 11 innings.
They struck out a combined nine batters with three walks, one of which was intentional.
“We kept our heads up,” Prochaska said. “Staying positive was a big thing. We knew if we worked harder and stayed positive, we’d get there.”
Free State coach Mike Hill kept the faith. He knew it would take time for his young team to come around.
“The kids just worked really hard,” he said. “They worked their butts off, and it’s good to finally see the payoff for their efforts.”
Even Tuesday’s game came later than Hill expected. It started late when officials were slow to arrive, and FSHS kept stranding runners in scoring position in the later innings.
“Joe was finally able to get one down,” Hill said. “We’re a club right now, we don’t have a big margin for error. We have to be hitting on two of the three cylinders. We haven’t been able to string hits together. But we were superb on the mound. Pitching and defense were fantastic. Offensively, we kept battling.”
All 10 of Free State’s hit were singles.
Dineen finished 2-for-5. Freshman Joel Spain, the only other Firebird with multiple hits, was 3-for-5.
Free State will travel to Olathe Northwest on Thursday.
“It’s a relief to get this first win,” Dineen said. “Now we just have to build on it.”