LIBERAL, Kan. – The Seward County baseball team (17-17, 5-9 KJCCC) battled in two tough games against Jayhawk foe Butler, splitting Thursday's double header at Brent Gould Field. The Saints lost game one 7-6, before winning with a walk off walk in game two 8-7.
GAME ONE RECAP
Tanner King (3-2) started on the mounded for the Saints in game one, giving up seven runs on six hits in five innings. Following a go-ahead 6th inning home run, Hunter Ratcliffe came in for relief, striking out three batters while not allowing a hit over two innings.
Seward finished with seven hits with Cayde Ward leading the way with two hits. Benny Ayala finished the game with a team-high three RBI. Runs weren't the issue for the Saints in the first game, but they couldn't find enough to overcome early errors.
The leadoff Grizzly was hit by a pitch and stole second. Though Spencer Sackett's throw was on the money, there was no Saint covering the bag allowing the baserunner to reach third base. A groundout to shortstop pushed the runner across home plate to make it 1-0.
There was déjà vu in the second inning as a walked Grizzly stole second and advanced to third from an error on the throw. Another error on a hit to first base scored the first run of the inning and pushed the batter to second base. The next batter hit an RBI single to center field to score another run, making it 3-0.
Seward got two back in the bottom of the second. A double, followed by a wild pitch, and walk put runners at the corners for the Saints. Ayala brought home the first runner with a sacrifice fly to deep left field, advancing Austin Tidwell from first to second. Jose Caraballo pushed Tidwell home with a single to center field to bring the game to 3-2.
Another Grizzly was hit by a pitch in the third inning and promptly reached home on a double to right field, making it a two-run game.
The Saints used an error to their advantage in the bottom of the third with Sackett hitting a ball to third base. Jacob Nielsen single through the left side to put runners at first and second before Dylan Paul double to center field to score Sackett. Two batters later, Tidwell hit a sac fly to tie the game at four.
Neither team could get anything going in the fourth inning, but back-to-back doubles by Butler in the top of the fifth scored two runs give them a 6-4 lead. Seward wouldn't go quietly however, as Ayala knock in two runs with a triple to center field to tie it back at six.
As was the case all game, Butler had an answer for the Saints, this time coming from a one-pitch leadoff homerun in the top of the sixth, which became the deciding run, giving the Grizzlies the 7-6 lead.
GAME TWO RECAP
Cole Evans earned the start on the mound in game two, give up five runs on four hits in six innings, while striking out seven batters. Jacob Nielsen (1-0) came in for relief, allowing two runs on two hits in three innings pitched.
The Saints came away with 12 hits with Joseph Kuhn, Cody Coontz, Ben Tsui and Jordan Kennedy each having multi-hit games. Ben Tsui finished with a career-high three RBI while hitting his second home run of the season.
It appeared the Saints would get out of the first inning without any runs scored, but with two outs, the Grizzlies had a different idea. A double to left field followed by a home run over the center field wall quickly put the Saints in a 2-0 hole.
The scored stayed at 2-0 over the next two innings until the Grizzlies got another run in the top of the fourth. A leadoff single, followed by two stolen bases gave Butler the chance to bring home the run, doing so on a ground out to shortstop to make it 3-0.
The Saints quickly bridged the gap with a leadoff bomb by Kuhn over the left field wall to score the first run for Seward. Coontz reached on a single through the left side before Tsui tied the game with his two-run blast to left field.
Seward took their first lead of the day in the bottom of the fifth with a sac fly to center field by Ayala, scoring Dylan Paul who reached on a double to start the inning.
A diving attempt by Dylan Paul to a ball hit to right field missed its mark and couldn't be located as the runner advanced all the way to third on the error. The next pitched was a passed ball, allowing the run to cross the plate.
A walk, single and hit-by-pitch loaded the bases for Butler before a single to center field scored two more runs, giving the Grizzlies the 6-5 lead. Another error, this time on a ball going between the first basemen's legs, scored the final run of the inning to make it 7-5.
The Saints refused to give in as Coontz homered to right center to cut the deficit to one. With the next at-bat, Ayala crushed another ball in the exact stop Coontz hit it, but missed clearing the wall, finishing with a double. Tsui singled up the middle with the next at-bat to tie the game at seven.
Nielsen kept Butler off the board for the final two innings, giving the Saints a chance to win from a walk off. A leadoff walk by Ayala was a sign of things to come. Tsui pushed Ayala to second with a sac bunt. Another walk and hit by pitch loaded the bases for Dylan Paul.
Paul stood at the plate following three straight balls. Knowing the pressure was on the pitcher, he watched the next two pitches, one a strike down the middle and the next a called strike on a ball that touched the outside of the plate to make it a 3-2 count. Paul saw the last pitch sail outside of the strike zone, reaching first base and winning the game with a walk off walk, 8-7.
Seward will travel to El Dorado at 1:00 pm on Saturday (March 31) to finish their series with the Grizzlies.