Lawrence High baseball shows resolve by fighting back late against Free State

photo by: Chance Parker/Journal-World

Lawrence High senior Truman Juelsgaard celebrates after hitting a home run against Free State at Hoglund Ballpark on Tuesday, May 10, 2022.

On a night when Free State’s starter was delivering strikeout after strikeout, there were plenty of times when things looked gloomy for the Lawrence High baseball team on Tuesday night in the annual City Showdown game at KU’s Hoglund Ballpark.

But that didn’t stop the Lions from finding reasons for hope in the 4-3 loss.

Heading into the fifth inning, Free State senior starter Maddox Burkitt had just delivered four consecutive strikeouts and the Firebirds held a 3-1 lead. But that’s when LHS senior Truman Juelsgaard hit a home run to left field that made it a one-run game.

“(Burkitt) is one of the best in the state,” LHS coach Brad Stoll said after the game. “He had great rhythm and was pumping it. Truman’s at-bat, that bomb, that just tells you who he is. When you need a spark, (Juelsgaard)’s the kind of kid that’s going to get it for you.”

The Lions (13-7) couldn’t channel any more momentum off that late home run and Burkitt responded quickly by driving in a run in the bottom of the fifth to put the Firebirds (13-7) back ahead by two, 4-2 with two innings to play.

But the Lions found hope again in the sixth, when Free State senior Jake Patchen was caught stealing third. Crawford, the LHS reliever, closed the inning on his second strikeout of the night and kept the score at 4-2 heading into the seventh.

Then, with two outs in the top of the seventh, Juelsgaard reached base on an infield single, sliding head-first into first base to keep the Lions’ hopes alive. The single came off of a full-count pitch and featured Juelsgaard making the kind of plays he made all year, in multiple sports, for LHS.

The senior’s scrappiness set up an RBI double from Bannister in the very next at-bat that cut the Free State lead to 4-3.

“What a great kid,” Free State coach Mike Hill said of Juelsgaard after the game. “You know, we don’t want to see bad things happen to us, but if they’re going to happen I’m glad it was him that did it because he’s a super human being.”

Although Juelsgaard’s late homer and hustle play in the seventh gave the Lions hope, Free State sophomore Kyle Graves and the Firebirds ultimately put a stop to both of the Lions’ late rallies. But Stoll said he was proud of his players’ attitude and how they kept fighting even when things looked bleak.

“This team’s got a ton of heart and guts,” Stoll said. “We weren’t going to go down without a fight. I knew we’d get some quality at-bats against a quality arm, but we just came up short.”

photo by: Chance Parker/Journal-World

Free State junior Brady Kern rounds third base in a game against Lawrence High at Hoglund Ballpark on Tuesday, May 10, 2022.

photo by: Chance Parker/Journal-World

Lawrence High senior Keyan Crawford pitches against Free State at Hoglund Ballpark on Tuesday, May 10, 2022.

photo by: Chance Parker/Journal-World

Lawrence High junior second baseman Brady Edmonds throws the ball to first in a game against Free State at Hoglund Ballpark on Tuesday, May 10, 2022.

photo by: Chance Parker/Journal-World

Lawrence High senior Truman Juelsgaard celebrates after hitting a home run against Free State at Hoglund Ballpark on Tuesday, May 10, 2022.

photo by: Chance Parker/Journal-World

Lawrence High senior Truman Juelsgaard hits a home run against Free State at Hoglund Ballpark on Tuesday, May 10, 2022.

photo by: Chance Parker/Journal-World

Free State senior Maddox Burkitt pitches against Lawrence High at Hoglund Ballpark on Tuesday, May 10, 2022.

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