Just about everything that could go right did for the Free State baseball team Friday.
After consecutive trips to the Class 6A state title game, including a state championship in 2015, the Firebirds kicked off the new season with a near flawless doubleheader sweep over Warrensburg (Mo.) at FSHS. They won Game One, 16-3, and took Game Two by a score of 13-4.
The offense racked up a combined 34 hits on the afternoon, while the pitching staff kept crooked numbers off the board and the defense limited errors. Even the weather was a perfect 70-degree, sunny afternoon.
“The kids have worked so hard, it’s a nice reward to get on the field and be able to play,” coach Mike Hill said. “I thought we did some good things today. To get two victories is nice and to do it in the fashion we did was really nice.”
It was clear the offense was ahead of the curve in the season opener and for good reason. FSHS (2-0) returns its entire infield and outfield, which led to four different four-spots in the first game, including in each of the first three innings.
All but one starter recorded a hit in the first game of the twin bill. In fact, four different players — the middle of the order — posted three-hit performances. Sophomore Jake Baker went 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs, while senior Nate Strathman also collected a pair of RBIs to go along with a 3-for-3 effort at the plate.
Senior Jaden Moore also went 3-for-3 at the dish with four RBIs and senior Dale Miller added three RBIs on a 3-for-4 clip, including a a pair of triples. Miller also got the win, tossing three innings of three-run ball.
“We looked good offensively,” Miller said. “It definitely has to do with our experience. Coach has been telling us to be more aggressive because we have so many seniors.”
The offense continued to steamroll in the nightcap, as five different players claimed multi-hit efforts. Senior Jacob Pavlyak (5-for-5) and Daniel Bryant (4-for-4, 2 RBIs) paved the way offensively with their perfect efforts. Senior Zion Bowlin knocked in five runs on three hits.
The team never trailed, scoring seven runs across the first three frames to give the pitching staff a comfortable advantage. Senior righty Aaron Funk got the start and spun four innings, in which he allowed one run off one hit and punched out six batters.
“Funk did what he did,” Pavylak said. “That’s not even as good as he can pitch. We know he can pitch way better than that, we have seen it before. He’s going to be a big key for us.”
Free State will travel to Ozark (Mo.) at 4 p.m. Friday.
Warrensburg 003 000 X — 3 7 1
Free State 444 04X X — 16 16 2
W — Dale Miller (1-0). L — Kade Peterson.
2B — Kyle Abrahamson, Jake Baker, FSHS; Malachai Browning, Warrensburg. 3B — Dale Miller (2), FSHS.
Free State highlights — Zion Bowlin, 2-for-3, 2 runs, 3 RBI, walk; Jake Baker, 3-for-5, 3 runs, 2 RBI, 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 0 K; Nate Strathman, 3-for-3, four runs, 2 RBI, walk; Dale Miller, 3-for-4, 2 runs, 3 RBI; Jaden Moore, 2-for-3, 3 RBI.
Warrensburg 001 003 0 — 4 3 4
Free State 142 024 X — 13 15 0
W — Aaron Funk (1-0). L — Blake Marnholtz.
2B — Jacob Pavylak, FSHS. 3B — Zion Bowlin, FSHS; Kevin Hardin, Warrensburg.
Free State highlights — Funk, 4 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 6 K; Pavylak, 5-for-5, 3 runs; Daniel Bryant, 4-for-4, 4 runs, 2 RBI, Bowlin, 2-for-5, 6 RBI; Nate Strahman, 2-for-4, 2 RBI.