Free State baseball finishes off doubleheader sweep with four-run rally in sixth

photo by: Carter Gaskins

Free State's Grant Gregory (6) celebrated by teammates as he scores during a game against Brandon Valley Friday afternoon at FSHS on March 26, 2021.

Thanks to a four-run rally in the sixth, Free State’s baseball team was able to close out a doubleheader sweep with a 6-4 win over Sioux Falls Roosevelt on Friday at FSHS. It came after the Firebirds recorded a 5-3 win over Brandon Valley earlier in the day.

With the sweep, Free State has now won three in a row since falling in the season opener. The Firebirds, who returned just one varsity player from the 2019 6A runner-up team, are now 3-1 entering Tuesday’s Sunflower League opener at Shawnee Mission West.

“Obviously pleased with the results and victories,” FSHS head coach Mike Hill said. “We continue to see signs of improvement. There are obviously things we don’t want to see again, but the kids are working hard and they have a great attitude.”

More than that, though, the home half of the sixth could end up doing wonders for a young Free State baseball club.

After jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first, Free State’s bats became cold and Sioux Falls Roosevelt eventually grabbed a 4-2 lead. Clinging to its final outs of the day, the sixth inning was critical for the Firebirds to put something together.

And that’s exactly what they did. Junior third baseman Grant Gregory, who drove in a pair of runs in the first with a double, opened the home half of the sixth with a single to right center to begin the comeback.

“It was huge, starting off the inning with a runner on base,” Gregory said. “Just puts our percentage of scoring way up. So it was big.”

That ended up being the lone hit of the frame for the Firebirds, but it didn’t matter because of their solid approach to the plate.

Ben Stallard managed to draw a walk in the next at-bat, while Matt Gabriel got on base via an error to load the bases. While nobody had scored yet, that’s when the FSHS dugout started to come alive.

“As soon as that happened, the whole dugout went crazy with energy,” junior right fielder Calvin Urish said.

Urish, the No. 9 hitter who delivered clutch at-bats in the first game, came through with a base-loaded walk to bring in the first run of the inning. Drew Bradford and Joey Wood followed suit by drawing back-to-back walks to give the Firebirds the lead.

The fourth and final run came through on an error by the opposing second baseman. So while the Firebirds may have been fortunate at times, it was also an example of what happens when they are patient at the plate and able to find some momentum.

“It was just great,” Urish said. “The energy in the dugout was just insane. It’s just good to be around the boys and finally get back to the season after 600 days or so. It’s just great.”

The sixth inning really symbolized what went well for the Firebirds on Friday, as they seemingly always found a timely hit when they needed it.

In the first game, the bottom of the lineup led the way for Free State. Stallard, Brady Kern and Urish all finished with two hits. Kern delivered a double in the sixth, while Urish tallied a triple in the third.

Both games featured efficient pitching by Free State as well. Will Dawson threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief in the nightcap, which came after starter Michael Uhler struck out six batters over 4 2/3 innings of work.

Against Brandon Valley, FSHS faced some trouble after limiting the opposition to just one run through the first six innings. Maddox Burkitt, who got the nod, did not give up an earned run over five frames to go along with six strikeouts and three walks.

Brandon Valley eventually brought the game-winning run to the plate in the seventh, but reliever Alex Carrillo helped close things out in the end of a two-run victory. But, even that scary sequence, could end up being an important moment in the early stages of the 2021 campaign.

“I think one of the things all kids have to learn is how to play through tense moments,” Hill said. “That doesn’t come automatically. You need to experience those things to be able to thrive in them. We always tell the kids that pressure is a privilege.”

Free State will face Shawnee Mission West at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at 3 & 2 Stadium – Field 1.

Game 1: Free State 5, Brandon Valley 3

BV 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 — 3 runs 5 hits 1 error

FS 0 0 1 1 2 1 x — 5 runs 7 hits 1 error

Pitching highlights: Maddox Burkitt 5 IP 3H 1R 0ER 6K 3BB; Alex Carrillo 1 IP 1H 2R 2K 3BB.

Hitting highlights: Ben Stallard 2-for-3; Brady Kern 2-for-3, 2B; Calvin Urish 2-for-2, 3B.

Game 2: Free State 6, Roosevelt 4

RSVL 0 2 0 0 2 0 0 — 4 runs 8 hits 2 errors

FSHS 2 0 0 0 0 4 x — 6 runs 6 hits 2 errors

Pitching highlights: William Dawson 2.1 IP 1H 0R 3K; Michael Uhler 4.2 IP 3ER 6K 2BB.

Hitting highlights: Grant Gregory 2-for-4, 2 RBI; Drew Bradford 1-for-1, 1 RBI, 3 BB; Joey Wood 1-for-3, 1 RBI; Maddox Burkitt 1-for-4, 1 RBI; Clavin Urish 1-for-2, 1 RBI.


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