Sports

Sports

River City Festival will test pitching depth

April 19, 2017

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Through the first month of the season, Free State and Lawrence High baseball teams haven’t had any problems dealing with the new mandatory pitch limits.

Heading into a weekend with three games in three days when both schools participate in the River City Baseball Festival, both the Firebirds and Lions are confident their depth won’t make it an issue.

Free State will face Sapulpa (Okla.) at 6 p.m. today at Hoglund Ballpark. The Lions will follow at 8:15 p.m. against Rogers (Ark.).

“The way the season is set up, we haven’t had to really delve into our pitching depth,” Free State coach Mike Hill said. “Now we will need to do that. We’re going to have some other kids get some opportunities this weekend, which is important for us.”

Free State (6-3) has primarily relied on starting pitchers Aaron Funk and Dale Miller through the first nine games.

Of course, potential rain in the forecast could shift the schedule, but the River City Festival is a big opportunity to showcase depth at the varsity level prior to the postseason in May.

The Lions (5-5) have won their past four games and set up their pitching for this weekend by using five pitchers in Monday’s 6-2 victory over Olathe East.

Under the Kansas High School Activity Association pitch limits, pitchers can’t exceed 105 pitches in a game. If a pitcher throws more than 30 pitches, it requires at least one day of rest before they can return to the mound.

Lawrence is scheduled to face Jefferson City (Mo.), the top-ranked team in Missouri’s Class 5, on Friday and Lee’s Summit (Mo.) West on Saturday.

“We’ve been developing some younger kids and trying to get them to cut their teeth a little bit early in the season so they are ready to go in River City and then moving forward,” LHS coach Brad Stoll said. “I think there’s six, seven guys that could really help us this weekend.”

The Firebirds are scheduled to play Tulsa (Okla.) Memorial at 3:45 p.m. Friday and Nixa (Mo.) at 11:15 a.m. Saturday.

For both Lawrence and Free State, there’s always an emphasis to play out-of-state teams.

“We always try to make it a point to play people that are out of the area just to give you a different flavor,” Hill said. “Kids enjoy that to get out of the conference grind and be able to play somebody new.”

Stoll added: “I’m excited. I just hope Mother Nature lets us get out and play. We always get a nice crowd on that Friday game. It’s always fun to play at KU. It’s a really, really cool set up.”

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