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High School Sports

High School Sports

River City Baseball Festival boasts loaded field

Free State senior Sam Hearnen (18) celebrates after crossing the plate for a run during Free State's game against Leavenworth Monday evening at FSHS.

Free State senior Sam Hearnen (18) celebrates after crossing the plate for a run during Free State's game against Leavenworth Monday evening at FSHS.

April 18, 2013

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During the next three days, 31 high school baseball teams will play 39 games as part of the 12th annual River City Baseball Festival.

As a host school that happens to come into the weekend with a 9-0 record, Free State High’s players and coaches know all three of their opponents gladly would be the first team to knock off the Firebirds this season.

Players to watch

Players to watch at the River City Baseball Festival

(Player, position, high school — college commitment)

Seniors

Travis Able, OF, Rockhurst — Central Arkansas

Jeff Albrecht, RHP, Creighton — Creighton

Todd Czinege, INF, Rockhurst — Villanova

Logan Gray, SS, Rockhurst — Austin Peay

Matt McHugh, RHP, Blue Valley North — Purdue

Lee McMahon, C, Free State — Kansas

Brett Nickle, 1B, Olathe South — Arkansas State

Storm Rynard, RHP, Raymore-Peculiar, Mo. — Arkansas

Shane Willoughby, SS, Lawrence — Youngstown State

Juniors

Jack Benninghoff, OF, Rockhurst — Arkansas

Zack Engelken, RHP, Blue Valley West — Nebraska

Monte Harrison, OF, Lee’s Summit West — undecided

Alex Lange, RHP, Lee’s Summit West — LSU

Ryan Ralston, 3B, Blue Valley West — undecided

Cody Rutscher, INF/RHP, Rockhurst — Furman

“We’re playing with a little target on our back, and that’s where you want to be,” FSHS coach Mike Hill said. “Instead of being the hunter, be the hunted. I think our kids are kind of beginning to embrace that, and it’s a good position to be in.”

Free State, which already has three extra-inning wins on its résumé, opens the Festival at 7:15 tonight at Kansas University’s Hoglund Ballpark against Topeka Hayden. Hill said the Wildcats (7-3) always have one of the best programs around.

“We know we’re gonna be in a dogfight there,” Hill added.

On Friday, FSHS will play host to Rogers, Ark., (10-8), and then the Firebirds will return to Hoglund on Saturday morning to take on a familiar Blue Valley Northwest team that beat Free State, 11-1, last season.

“They put a good whooping on us a year ago,” Hill said, “so we know we’re gonna see three solid teams.”

Lawrence High also expects three challenges.

“We always try to get three of the best teams we can get our hands on,” Lions coach Brad Stoll said.

First up for LHS (8-2) is a match-up with Omaha (Neb.) Creighton Prep at 5:30 tonight at Hoglund. The Junior Jays are the defending Nebraska Class A champions. Stoll said Creighton Prep always has an athletic lineup, and the Lions will have to be on top of their game defensively.

Friday at LHS comes a showdown with Lee’s Summit West, Mo. Junior outfielder Monte Harrison and junior pitcher Alex Lange lead the Titans (9-3), who destroyed Lawrence, 13-5, last season at the festival.

“They’re loaded,” Stoll said.

Lawrence closes the weekend against Maize — “One of the better programs in Kansas,” Stoll offered regarding the Eagles (4-3), the 2011 Class 6A state champions who have won three state titles in the past decade.

It won’t be easy for the Lions to win all three games, and that’s fine with Stoll.

“Our philosophy is, you’ve got to win three games to win a state championship,” he said, “so we want to play three really great teams back-to-back-to-back to simulate a state tournament.”

No doubt the other 30 programs playing this weekend feel the same.

Said Hill: “We’re really fortunate to be able to host this. Really, there’s not a baseball event like it at the high school level in the entire Midwest.”

Today

At Hoglund Ballpark, Kansas University

5:30 p.m. — Lawrence vs. Omaha Creighton Prep, Neb.

7:45 p.m. — Free State vs. Topeka Hayden

At Free State High

11:15 a.m. — Olathe North vs. Blue Valley Northwest

1:30 p.m. — Shawnee Mission West vs. Blue Valley North

3:45 p.m. — Olathe Northwest vs. Blue Valley

6 p.m. — Shawnee Mission North vs. Lee’s Summit West, Mo.

At Lawrence High

9 a.m. — St. James Academy vs. Blue Valley Northwest

11:15 a.m. — St. James Academy vs. Raymore-Peculiar, Mo.

1:30 p.m. — Shawnee Mission Northwest vs. Blue Valley Southwest

3:45 p.m. — Shawnee Mission East vs. Kansas City, Mo., Rockhurst

6 p.m. — Shawnee Mission South vs. Warrensburg, Mo.

Friday

At Hoglund Ballpark, Kansas University

10 a.m. — Shawnee Mission North vs. Roeland Park Bishop Miege

12:15 p.m. — Shawnee Mission East vs. Blue Valley West

2:30 p.m. — Leavenworth vs. Lee’s Summit West, Mo.

4:45 p.m. — Shawnee Mission Northwest vs. Warrensburg, Mo.

7 p.m. — Shawnee Mission West vs. Branson, Mo.

At Free State High

10 a.m. — Leavenworth vs. Raymore-Peculiar, Mo.

12:15 p.m. — Shawnee Mission Northwest vs. Omaha Creighton Prep, Neb.

2:30 p.m. — Free State vs. Rogers, Ark.

4:45 p.m. — Shawnee Mission South vs. Nixa, Mo.

7 p.m. — Kansas City, Mo., Rockhurst vs. Omaha Creighton Prep, Neb.

At Lawrence High

10 a.m. — Olathe Northwest vs. Kansas City, Kan., Bishop Ward

12:15 p.m. — Olathe North vs. Warrensburg, Mo.

2:30 p.m. — Olathe Northwest vs. Kansas City, Mo., Rockhurst

4:45 p.m. — Olathe South vs. Blue Springs, Mo.

7 p.m. — Lawrence vs. Lee’s Summit West, Mo.

Saturday

At Hoglund Ballpark, Kansas University

9 a.m. — Nixa, Mo. Vs. Blue Springs, Mo.

11:15 a.m. — Free State vs. Blue Valley Northwest

1:30 p.m. — Shawnee Mission South vs. Ozark, Mo.

3:45 p.m. — Blue Valley North vs. Raymore-Peculiar, Mo.

6 p.m. — Lawrence vs. Maize

At Free State High

9 a.m. — Blue Valley Southwest vs. Ozark, Mo.

11:15 a.m. — Olathe South vs. Branson, Mo.

1:30 p.m. — Maize vs. Blue Springs, Mo.

6 p.m. — Topeka Hayden vs. Lee’s Summit West, Mo.

At Lawrence High

9 a.m. — Blue Valley West vs. Rogers, Ark.

11:15 a.m. — Raymore-Peculiar, Mo. vs. Omaha Creighton Prep, Neb.

1:30 p.m. — Shawnee Mission West vs. Blue Valley Southwest

3:45 p.m — Blue Valley vs. Branson, Mo.

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