Firebirds start hot, Lions falter at River City festival; final games set for Saturday

photo by: Conner Becker/Journal-World

Free State sophomore Ben Graves (6) high fives a teammate after crossing home plate during a game with Shawnee Mission East on Tuesday, April 9, 2024, at FSHS.

The River City Baseball Festival concludes Friday, as Free State (14-3) and Lawrence High (10-7) round out the weekend at Hoglund Ballpark.

The Firebirds opened the classic by winning Thursday’s afternoon battle with Blue Springs, of Missouri, 11-1 with eight total hits and a strong performance by junior Blaine Larkin (6.0 IP, 2 H, R, ER, BB, 5 K) on the mound.

Drew McConnell gave the Wildcats a one-run lead in the first inning, homering over the right field fence, but the Firebirds rolled off a two-run RBI hit by junior Wesley Cupps for a 5-1 lead by the end of the second.

On Friday, Free State raised its hit count to 12 in a 10-0 shutout over Belton.

The Firebirds broke loose with six runs in the third after two scoreless innings and added four more runs through the fifth for a run-rule victory. Senior Tyler Jeffries picked up the win, allowing just one hit with two walks and five strikeouts.

FSHS looks to complete its River City sweep against Arkansas City (3-12) on Saturday. First pitch is set for 1:30 p.m. at Hoglund Ballpark.

LHS opened their River City campaign in shakier fashion than the Firebirds, dropping its first two games of the weekend to Blue Springs South and Lee’s Summit West – each by a final score of 7-1.

In Thursday’s battle with the Jaguars, LHS trailed 7-0 through the fourth and never quite found the late mojo it needed. BS-South exploded in the fifth, crossing five runs against senior Vaughn Wells (4.0 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 4 K) and the Lions – with Kyan Guss scoring LHS’ sole run off an error in the sixth.

At home on Friday, the Lions again struggled early and found themselves trailing LS-West 3-0 through the second.

LHS senior Connor Nowak singled in a run in the fourth, as the Titans capped the Lions at four total hits on the afternoon. Guss relieved senior starter Brooks Jones (4.1 IP, 2 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 8 BB, 7 K) in the fifth, relinquishing another run to the Titans in the sixth.

Down six runs in the seventh, Guss kept LS-West off the board but the Lions failed to protest the Titans’ lead during the final side. Guss finished his outing pitching 2.2 innings of two-hit, one-run ball with a single strikeout.

In its final River City contest, LHS will challenge Lansing (7-5) on Saturday. First pitch is set for 11:15 a.m.

Free State, LHS runner earn top-20 finishes at KU Relays

Free State and Lawrence High’s track and field squads were among countless high school and college teams competing at Rock Chalk Park over the weekend, as both teams notched top 20 finishes during Friday’s events.

Four Firebirds – juniors Cayman Barnes, Elle Cormaney, Brylee Burns and Greta Barnett – placed 16th (22:50.20) among 25 schools competing in the 4×1600-meter relay.

On the LHS side, senior Paige Platt finished 15th (120-4) among 24 schools in the javelin throw.

Both FSHS and LHS return to Rock Chalk Park Saturday for the final day of events.

Follow the 2024 KU Relays live here


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