As far as the baseball coaches at Free State and Lawrence high schools are concerned, the Firebirds and Lions are about to go through a three-day on-the-field midterm of sorts.
That’s what the River City Baseball Festival provides for the two city teams, which will both play a game a day between now and Saturday.
Both FSHS and LHS enter the 11th-annual baseball extravaganza, which features 28 teams, ready to be tested. The Firebirds (4-6) have won three in a row and four of their last five, while the Lions (7-3) have won four straight and five of six.
Lawrence coach Brad Stoll said his team is moving in the right direction.
“I’m really pleased, because I thought Monday night was as well played a game as we could play,” Stoll said of a 1-0 victory over Shawnee Mission West.
Free State coach Mike Hill, whose team began the season with five straight losses, has been pleased the Firebirds’ steady progress.
“We are getting better, in many ways,” Hill said.
Both coaches expect the festival to serve as an assessment of where their teams stand about midway through the regular season.
The Lions open at 5 tonight at Kansas University’s Hoglund Ballpark against Lee’s Summit West (Mo.). Stoll said he treats the festival like a state tournament, so he told Hill, who puts the event together, that LHS wanted to face high-quality opponents. LSW will be the first of three Missouri foes for the Lions, who will take on Ozark on Friday (8 p.m. at LHS) and Raymore-Peculiar Saturday (4:30 p.m. at Hoglund).
“Every year,” Stoll said, “those three teams come to River City, and they win more than they lose.”
The Firebirds play right after LHS (approximately 7:30 p.m.) today at Hoglund against Warrensburg (Mo.). Hill said each game — Free State plays Bishop Miege on Friday (3 p.m. at FSHS) and Branson (Mo.) Saturday (11:30 a.m. at Hoglund) — will test his young team.
“It could be a reminder of what things we need to do better,” the coach said.
Specifically, Hill expects the festival to test his team’s pitching rotation.
“It’s highly likely we’ll have to use some guys we haven’t to this point,” Hill said.
Stoll said the format will test his pitching staff, too, but he loves the festival.
“It gives you a little bit of a reality check,” the LHS coach said, “because at no other point until the postseason do you play this many games in a short amount of time.”
Hill said the River City Baseball Festival, which features teams from Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Arkansas, wouldn’t be possible without the help of KU baseball coach Ritch Price and the KU athletic department.
“They make such an investment in high school baseball here,” the FSHS coach said.
2012 River City Baseball Festival
At Free State High
11 a.m. — Olathe North vs. Raymore-Peculiar (Mo.)
1:30 p.m. — Shawnee Mission West vs. Blue Valley
4 p.m. — Shawnee Mission East vs. Blue Springs (Mo.)
6:30 p.m. — Olathe East vs. Topeka Hayden
At Lawrence High
11 a.m. — Leavenworth vs. St. James Academy
1:30 p.m. — Shawnee Mission Northwest vs. Blue Valley West
4 p.m. — Olathe Northwest vs. Omaha Creighton Prep (Neb.)
6:30 p.m. — Shawnee Mission South vs. Kansas City Rockhurst (Mo.)
At Hoglund Ballpark, Kansas University
5 p.m. — Lawrence vs. Lee’s Summit West (Mo.)
7:30 p.m. — Free State vs. Warrensburg (Mo.)
10 a.m. — Olathe North vs. Blue Valley North
12:30 p.m. — Shawnee Mission South vs. Omaha Creighton Prep (Neb.)
3 p.m. — Free State vs. Bishop Miege
5:30 p.m. — Shawnee Mission Northwest vs. Kansas City Ward
8 p.m. — Blue Valley Southwest vs. Warrensburg (Mo.)
10 a.m. — Shawnee Mission East vs. Lee’s Summit West (Mo.)
12:30 p.m. — Shawnee Mission North vs. Kansas City Rockhurst (Mo.)
3 p.m. — Olathe Northwest vs. Raymore-Peculiar (Mo.)
5:30 p.m. — Branson (Mo.) vs. Blue Valley Northwest
8 p.m. — Lawrence vs. Ozark (Mo.)
At Hoglund Ballpark, KU
10 a.m. — Olathe Northwest vs. Blue Valley West
12:30 p.m. — Shawnee Mission Northwest vs. St. James Academy
3 p.m. — Leavenworth vs. Rogers (Ark.)
5:30 p.m. — Olathe South vs. Kansas City Rockhurst (Mo.)
8 p.m. — Shawnee Mission West vs. Omaha Creighton Prep (Neb.)
9 a.m. — Rogers (Ark.) vs. Raymore-Peculiar (Mo.)
11:30 a.m. — Omaha Creighton Prep (Neb.) vs. Kansas City Ward
2 p.m. — Lee’s Summit West (Mo.) vs. Blue Valley Northwest
4:30 p.m. — Lee’s Summit West (Mo.) vs. Blue Valley Southwest
9 a.m. — Branson (Mo.) vs. Bishop Miege
11:30 a.m. — Olathe South vs. Ozark (Mo.)
2 p.m. — Shawnee Mission West vs. Blue Springs (Mo.)
4:30 p.m. — Blue Springs (Mo.) vs. Blue Valley North
At Hoglund Ballpark, KU
9 a.m. — Shawnee Mission South vs. Blue Valley
11:30 a.m. — Free State vs. Branson (Mo.)
2 p.m. — Shawnee Mission North vs. Topeka Hayden
4:30 p.m. — Lawrence vs. Raymore-Peculiar (Mo.)