There is a sports theory that gets tossed around often about the difficulty of beating the same team three times.
The baseball teams from Lawrence and Free State high schools are about to play — at 4:30 p.m. today at College Boulevard Activity Center in Olathe — for the third time in eight days, this time in a Class 6A regional semifinal.
After his Lions beat the Firebirds, 3-1 and 7-4, LHS coach Brad Stoll wasn’t giving that three-win philosophy much credit.
“That’s an age-old sports cliche, and I think is only true if you allow it to be true,” Stoll said.
It’s not that the coach thinks Lawrence (12-8) is in line for an automatic win. Stoll knows the Firebirds (8-12) would love to win this playoff game, regardless of who beat whom or how many times they’ve played.
FSHS coach Mike Hill agreed.
“This is do-or-die. This is win-or-pack,” Hill said. “Our kids are motivated to continue their season. It just so happens we’re playing Lawrence in the first round.”
The No. 3 seed Lions anticipate an intense rematch with No. 6 FSHS, and Stoll said Hill will have his players ready to face LHS starting pitcher Garrett Cleavinger, who struck out nine and allowed three hits in Lawrence’s 3-1 victory on May 7.
“They’re gonna make adjustments,” Stoll said. “They saw Cleavinger, and they kind of know what to expect.”
What LHS should expect from Free State’s starting pitcher is another matter. Hill said Monday night the Firebirds had not yet named a starter.
“You can expect to see multiple people on the mound,” Hill said.
That has been the strategy in the other two rivalry games. JD Prochaska, Jacob Caldwell or Ryan Cantrell could start, and Sam Hearnen almost always throws relief.
Although they did not meet during the regular season, there is plenty of history surrounding today’s 4:45 p.m. first-round regional softball game between sixth-seeded Lawrence High (5-15) and third-seeded Topeka High (14-6) at Olathe’s College Boulevard Activity Center.
One year ago, these teams squared off for the regional championship in Topeka, where LHS claimed a wild, 12-10 victory and earned a spot in the 2011 state tournament. Although the stakes won’t be quite as high when the two meet today, the goal is the same.
“We’re hoping some of that carries over,” LHS coach Nick Wood said. “We want the handful of girls who played in that game to show up this year with confidence and help us get it done again.”
Doing so won’t be easy, but you would never know it from talking to the LHS players.
“We definitely have a good chance,” said Lions third baseman Lauren Byrn, one of four LHS seniors. “We’ve played great defense all year, and our hitting has really come around. If we play clean D and can score some runs, I think we’ll have a good shot.”
Freshman pitcher Megan Sumonja (2-5) will start on the mound for the Lions.
“We play in a really good conference,” Wood said. “There’s nothing that we’re going to see today that we haven’t seen all year. We just have to put it all together for 21 outs.”
The LHS-THS winner will face the winner of the match-up between No. 2 Olathe Northwest (16-4) and No. 7 Junction City/St. Xavier (4-16) at 6:30 for a trip to state.
Free State (Wednesday)
Free State softball couldn’t be much hotter entering postseason play.
The Firebirds (12-7) won eight of their last nine games before their regular-season finale against Shawnee Mission South was suspended, with the score tied at 3.
FSHS begins its regional at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Topeka-Washburn Rural, against Manhattan (10-10).
Courtney Parker, Sam O’Brien and A’Liyah Rogers have been Free State’s most consistent threats at the plate — each has 29 hits. They are just three of the six Firebirds hitting above .300.
Parker leads with a robust .468, O’Brien isn’t far behind at .408, Rogers has hit .397, Elizabeth Hazlett (16 at bats) comes in at .375, Alex Hill hits .343 and Remington Samuels bats .323.
Throughout this season, Free State’s girls soccer team has been recognized by the Kansas Soccer Coaches Association as one of the best teams in the state.
Though the Firebirds (10-4-2) lost three of their last four regular-season games, two of those came against highly rated foes Olathe East and Blue Valley Southwest.
FSHS will play host to Gardner-Edgerton (5-11) at 6 tonight.
Free State defeated the Trailblazers, 2-0, earlier this season, but played much better than a two-goal advantage would suggest. The Firebirds outshot GEHS, 30-1.
Maddie Dieker scored both goals, but Amber Hicks, Kylee Loneker, Chelsea Casady, Regan Keasling, Margaux Gill, Abbey Casady, Hadyn Hutchison and Allix Ice had shots as well.
Lawrence High’s girls soccer team has experienced plenty of challenges in 2012.
After going 3-13 in the regular season, the next test comes at 6 tonight, when the Lions play at Manhattan (13-2-1).
The Lions closed their season by defeating Topeka and also recorded victories over Baldwin and Shawnee Mission North.
Manhattan is the top seed in the Class 6A Regional No. 2.