Free State baseball suffers 12-0 loss to talented Olathe West team

photo by: Shane Jackson

Free State's Brady Kern swings at a pitch during a game against Olathe West Monday night at FSHS on April 19, 2021.

Even if Free State’s baseball team had played its best game, head coach Mike Hill knew it would have been a challenge to defeat a talented Olathe West squad.

Yet the lopsided 12-0 defeat was a result of the Firebirds struggling in all three phases of the game Monday night at FSHS. Free State managed just one hit, committed four errors on defense, and had to deploy five different pitchers on a night where its scheduled starter was unavailable.

“We made way too many mistakes to try and stay competitive with a very good baseball team,” Hill said. “We thought today would be a good barometer for us, and had a chance to step up and compete. Unfortunately, we did not get that done.”

“Had we played clean today, I certainly don’t know if we would have won the game,” Hill added. “But we could have made the game much, much more competitive.”

But it was still an important test for the Firebirds (5-7), especially with the River City Baseball Festival slated for later in the week. Olathe West (9-1) entered the game as the No. 2 ranked team in Class 6A.

The Owls, who were coming off a 13-1 win over Sioux Falls Lincoln, have scored eight or more runs in six different outings. They also have a potent pitching staff, a group that includes Kansas State baseball commit Andrew Evans, who started against FSHS on Monday.

In truth, it is a squad that is similar to what the Firebirds have trotted out there in the past. After all, Free State was the 6A runner-up just two seasons ago.

“We were playing a team like we typically are — state championship-caliber team,” Hill said. “Now you got a barometer of what it looks like. A lot of these kids haven’t been here to see what it looks like in terms of us, but they saw it today.”

Olathe West jumped out to a 3-0 advantage in the first, thanks in large part to a pair of errors by FSHS pitcher Gage Callaghan. Ryan Souter delivered a two-run double to highlight the inning for the visitors.

Free State seemed poised to answer right back in the bottom of the first. Calvin Urish managed to draw a four-pitch walk to start things off. Joey Wood reached on a fielding error by the first baseman one batter later, but an inning-ending double play ended any threat.

Urish and Wood also helped FSHS put runners at the corners in the bottom of the third. Urish worked another walk, while Wood delivered an infield single. The umpire eventually called runner’s interference on another double-play attempt, preventing a run from counting for the Firebirds.

“Particularly in the first inning, I thought we had some good at-bats,” Hill said. “You put the ball in play on the ground, and they made plays. That was one of the differences in the game is they turned a couple double plays.”

Evans limited the Firebirds to one hit over five innings, surrendering a total of nine baserunners over that span. He struck out five batters, including a stretch of three consecutive whiffs on Grant Gregory, Matt Gabriel and Ben Stallard.

Olathe West scored in all but two innings, including a five-run effort in the top of the seventh to close things out.

Free State pieced together a pitching staff, using Callaghan for two innings to start the game. Tyler Vigna threw two innings in relief, and Urish tossed one full frame as well. Maddox Burkitt and William Dawson combined to record the final six outs for Free State.

“We wanted to set ourselves up for the weekend,” Hill said. “Plus, with a team like that, you never know. Maybe you roll a bunch of people out there and don’t give them any rhythm, so to speak. That was kind of the game plan.”

The Firebirds will have three games in as many days later in the week. Free State next will face Hayden at 6 p.m. Thursday at Hoglund Ballpark.

Olathe West 12, Free State 0

OWHS 3 0 1 1 2 0 5 — 12 10 1

FSHS 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 0 1 4

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