Hot-hurling Lawrence High baseball ousts Free State in semifinals

May 16, 2012


— Time after time this season, Free State High baseball players and coach Mike Hill have lamented the team’s lack of offense.

The Firebirds’ regional playoff game at College Boulevard Activity Center on Tuesday against rival Lawrence High was the exclamation point on those complaints.

LHS senior left-handed pitcher Garrett Cleavinger held Free State to three hits and struck out eight for a 4-0 complete game victory that ended the FSHS season.

Firebirds senior second baseman Tim Turner said it was frustrating to get shut out in an elimination game.

“It just kind of shows that we weren’t the strongest team offensively,” Turner said.

Fellow senior Montana Samuels said Cleavinger was “dealing,” and there aren’t many pitchers like him in the area.

“I’ve seen him pitch against teams that can hit a lot better than we have this year, and he was filthy today,” Samuels said.

“I mean, yeah, it sucks that we couldn’t get any (runs) across and we struggled at the plate, but we gave our best effort and he just gave us a better shot today.”

Hill tipped his FSHS cap to Cleavinger and the Lions.

“They got a couple runs early that put us behind,” Hill said, “and behind is certainly not where us, or frankly anybody else, wants to be in an elimination game.”

Jake Vinoverski put Free State in a 1-0 hole in the first inning with an RBI triple off starting pitcher Jacob Caldwell. In the second, Trevor Champagne and Shane Willoughby hit RBI singles off Caldwell.

Lawrence scored its fourth and final run in the bottom of the third when Drew Green knocked a Sam Hearnen pitch over the right-field wall for a solo home run.

It was an all too familiar story, Samuels said, for the offensively challenged Firebirds (8-13).

“Those few, maybe one, two mishaps we have,” the senior first baseman said, “we just can’t get enough done offensively and that just kind of kills us.”

Joe Dineen, Anthony Miele and JD Prochaska gave Free State its three hits.

But Hill said it wasn’t as if Free State played poorly. Plus, the coach said the Firebirds improved much since an 0-5 start to the season.

“Our first five games, we didn’t belong on the field with our opponents,” Hill said. “And then we found a way to get better because we have kids who work hard.”

Despite the struggles they endured, the coach remained proud.

“We’ve had a ton of success here and I’m sure it wasn’t easy for them to experience an unusual losing season,” Hill said, “but my goodness, they gave us everything they had.”


Heywood 6 years, 1 month ago

OK, so I started following and reading up on the FSHS baseball team since some other posters here were causing all the commotion about the coach.

In every article coaches and players acknowledge that their offense is their weakness. I watched some games and I have to say, slumps don’t last an entire season.... they just can’t hit. What was done to fix the swings? Don’t they have anyone who can produce? It seems as if their lack of offense was just accepted as a limitation and not aggressively challenged like their defense was. It sounds as if their rough start this season was more a result of their defense and errors, they fixed that.

Listening to the game live on 1320 yesterday I didn’t know if the center fielder was Gayle Sayers, Joe Montana or Willie Mays. Lead off batter who couldn’t lay down a bunt in a grass infield that eats the ball, according to the announcer. By the time he got a hit and made it to first base I knew all about his grandfather’s tennis game. So he makes it to first and we’re still hearing about his amazing speed, and that of his ancestors, and that he’s had 3 stolen bases. Then he gets picked off at first, which happens to everyone, and the announcer starts talking about how LHS had that happen 3 times last week and the LHS coach wasn’t happy.... then going out of the inning he just couldn’t bring himself to say the kids name. The announcer literally said “a player got picked off at first”. So three stolen bases out of how many attempts? How many other times was he picked off at first? Has he been picked off at second or third? He’s a great QB, can he pitch? It's no secret that every other high school kid on his street goes to LHS, what’s going on here? Was this some sort of brokered deal? 4 year letter in 3 sports if you come to FSHS? All I can say is that if anything like that has happened here, what’s to prevent a “better deal” from coming along like maybe starting varsity QB at another school? I wish him luck and success but at what expense to others?

The team seemed to have improved over the season on their defense, now they need to apply that same experience to their offense. I hope FSHS can find some big kids who can hit. They’re losing three kids who have good size and can hit. Some of the returning guys should get themselves on an aggressive weight program. But like they say, you can’t coach size and speed.

Clickker 6 years, 1 month ago

Sounds like a radio announcer problem to me. And neither team can bunt properly, except for one or two kids. If the player in question went to the school in the disrict he lives, (LHS) they would be a very good baseball team for the next few years.

lionsrock 6 years, 1 month ago

Go ahead and say it, Dr. Ron O. Sr puts a motor home at the KOA camp to get a address north of 15t

Clickker 6 years, 1 month ago

I can hear the chant now from the student section right before a big free throw...."KOA....KOA....KOA...KOA......."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.