Missed chances costly for Firebirds

Free State junior shortstop Mikey Corbett dives after a sharply hit ground ball during Free State's game against Shawnee Mission Northwest Tuesday at FSHS.

There are times when baseball is a complex sport, but it was easy to see how Free State lost to Shawnee Mission Northwest, 6-3, on Tuesday at FSHS.

The Cougars made the most of their five hits and the Firebirds left seven runners on base.

“I wouldn’t say we didn’t hit the ball. We hit the ball well,” sophomore infielder Zion Bowlin said. “We just didn’t execute when we needed to execute. That’s pretty much about it.”

The Cougars (4-1) took a 4-0 lead in the first inning after their first five batters reached base against Free State starter Parker Tietjen. Senior Tripp Wright relieved Tietjen with two runners on and one out, but immediately forced a double play.

“I feel like that gave us a lot of energy and a little bit of breathing room getting out of it that quickly,” said Wright, who gave up two hits and no earned runs in 5 2/3 innings while striking out three.

Bowlin helped the the Firebirds (4-2) cut into SM Northwest’s lead with a run in the bottom of the first inning. He drew a leadoff walk, moved to second on a balk and eventually scored on a groundout by senior Joel Spain.

But without some of the power hitters in recent seasons, the Firebirds aren’t able to score runs and change the game in just one swing.

With one out in the third inning, the Firebirds had three straight singles from seniors Cooper Karlin, Spain and Jon Saathoff, but that only loaded the bases. Karlin scored on sacrifice fly by junior Hunter Gudde, and a strikeout ended the inning and the chance for more runs.

Wright kept Free State close with his ability to locate his pitches and force routine grounders and pop flys. He also received some help from his defense when Spain made a diving catch and tracked down a line drive in center field.

“He did a super job,” FSHS coach Mike Hill said of Wright. “Other than the sixth when we had a few snafus to give up a run, I thought he was super and I’m happy for him. He’s such a good kid and works so hard, you like to see him have success. He certainly kept us within reach of them.”

Free State added a run in the seventh inning after Bowlin drilled a triple to right-center and scored on a groundout by Karlin. After starting the season with a 4-0 record, the Firebirds have lost their last two games, but they’re not worried about falling into a bigger skid.

“We just have to keep our heads up, practice hard,” Bowlin said, “get back in the groove.”

The Firebirds will go on the road to face Shawnee Mission West at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

SMNW 400 001 1 — 6 5 1

Free State 101 000 1 — 3 9 2

W — Jared Marolf. L — Parker Tietjen (0-1).

2B — Nate Reeder, SMNW. 3B — Zion Bowlin, Free State. HR — Reeder, SMNW.

Free State highlights — Tripp Wright, 5.2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, BB, 3 K; Zion Bowlin, 1-for-3, 2 runs; Cooper Karlin, 1-for-4, run.