Free State routs SM East 10-0 in just six innings, advances to state semifinal
It was smooth sailing for the No. 3-seeded Free State baseball team in a 10-0 win over 6-seed Shawnee Mission East in the state quarterfinal on Thursday night at Hoglund Ballpark. Free State (17-6) will now meet Blue Valley West in the state semifinal on Friday for a chance at the state title game.
Free State starting pitcher Kyle Graves secured the shutout victory over the Lancers (14-9) through six complete innings. The junior finished his big night with just five hits and four total strikeouts.
Graves escaped the first inning without a scratch on the mound and then hit a leadoff double in the bottom of the first. SM East starter Jack Laird picked up two strikeouts but walked senior Brady Kern as courtesy runner Jace Grady moved into scoring position at third on a passed ball.
Free State got on the board with an error-forced RBI double by sophomore Ryan Weishaar, scoring both Grady and Kern. Next, a two-out base hit by senior Tyler Vigna knocked in Weishaar from second, pushing the Firebirds’ lead to 3-0.
The second inning opened with Graves’ second strikeout, followed by an error-forced single by Cole Chinnock. Weishaar earned the second out on a sliding catch on a pop-up, and a groundout by Fletcher Noblit retired the side for the Lancers.
Two walks by Laird placed Grady at second and Kern at first with two outs in the bottom of the second. But junior Mason Lester hit a line drive to Noblit at second base for the third out, so Free State wasn’t able to add any runs in the second.
In the top of the third, SM East’s Scott Fegen hit a leadoff double and stole his way to third on a fielder’s choice. But during the next at-bat, Free State second baseman Ben Graves tracked down a pop-up by Jack Jones and fired the ball to home plate just in time to cut off Fegen for the final out.
Then in the bottom of the third, with two on base and no outs, Free State junior Tyler Jeffries’ sacrifice bunt was muffed by Laird and overthrown to first, resulting in a two-run RBI double for Jeffries. Courtesy runner Jake Chun, who subbed in for Jeffries, scored on a sacrifice fly to left field by Graves.
Up 6-0 heading into the fourth, Free State made quick work of the Lancers 1-2-3, capping off the inning with a double play pieced together by Ben Graves at second and Vigna at first. SM East reliever Weston Lyerly returned the favor in the bottom half, working through three consecutive Firebirds without a scratch.
SM East senior Michael Lickert started the fifth off with a deep flyout to left field, and Kyle Graves then mowed down the next two batters. In the bottom of the fifth, a one-out walk for Lickert and a base hit by Kyle Graves put the Firebirds back in key scoring position with runners at second and third. Lyerly walked the next batter, Ben Graves, filling the bags — and then the Lancers, who were still looking for two more outs, pulled Lyerly in favor of senior Luc Prendiville.
Kern earned an error-forced RBI double on Prendiville’s first pitch, sending Lickert, Kyle Graves and Ben Graves across home plate. Two flyouts by Lester and Weishaar ended the fifth.
SM East picked up some momentum on consecutive base hits by Matt Bolinger and Jones in the top of the sixth, but Lickert made a highly contested catch over the left field baseline wall on a deep ball hit by Colton Sims. Kyle Graves and the Firebirds escaped the inning on a two-out groundout by Carter Rose.
The Firebirds needed just one run in the bottom of the sixth to win by mercy rule, and they got it after three consecutive walks by Prendiville.
Up next, the Firebirds and BV West are slated for a 1:15 p.m. first pitch on Friday.
SM East 000 000 X – 0 5 5
Free State 303 031 X – 10 10 1
W – K. Graves; L – J. Laird.