Seward County ace Jakob Hernandez wasn't at his best Friday afternoon on the road in El Dorado as the Saints took on the Butler Grizzlies, but he was just good enough, tossing another complete game to earn a 7-5 win in game one for Seward, in the process breaking the all-time Seward County record with his 119th strikeout of the 2016 season. In game two, the game was tied midway through at 5-5, but the Saints bullpen again couldn't hold the lead, allowing 10 Butler runs in the 6th and 7th innings to allow the Grizzlies to run rule them in game two to split the doubleheader.
In a matchup of teams going in opposite directions in the Jayhawk West standings, the Saints put the pressure on Butler early and often Friday afternoon at McDonald Stadium in El Dorado. Seward loaded the bases in the top half of the 1st inning but were unable to score, then came back and were able to push four runs across in a big 2nd inning behind a two run double from Logan Nethercot and a two out RBI single from Judah Sweat to put them ahead 4-0.
To begin the Butler 2nd, Saints starter Jakob Hernandez struck out Grizzly star Cory Slater, notching his 119th strikeout of the season which breaks an all-time Seward County single season record.
Hernandez kept the Grizzlies off the board until the 3rd when Butler broke through with a three run frame to cut the Saints lead to one at 4-3.
Seward's offense went cold as Butler's began to heat up as the Grizzlies ripped a long home run to begin their half of the 4th to tie the score up at 4.
After another quiet inning for the Saints in the 5th, Butler took their first advantage of the game with their second straight leadoff bomb to go in front 5-4.
Butler brought in their closer to begin the 6th inning, but it turned out to be a welcomed change for Seward. The Saints got an RBI double to left center off the bat of Nethercot to score the equalizer and one batter later, Sweat lined a single down the right field line to score two more to put Seward on top 7-5.
With a renewed energy, Hernandez took the mound in the 6th and punched out two to hold the lead and the big lefty did the same in the 7th, stranding the game tying run at the plate to end things, giving Seward a 7-5 win in the opener.
Each team had eight hits in the contest and the Saints won despite committing the games only three errors. The middle of the Seward lineup led the Saints charge as Nethercot finished 3 for 4 with three doubles and three RBI's in the win while Sweat was 2 for 3 with three RBI's as well. Hernandez earned his seventh win of the season despite allowing a season high five earned runs and striking out a season low six.
The Saints got off to another good start in game two of the twinbill as Nethercot carried his red hot bat right over from game one with a 1st inning opposite field two run home run to give Seward an early 2-0 lead.
Butler needed just one batter in their first at bats of the game to get on the board as they got a leadoff home run in the bottom of the 1st to cut the Saints lead to 2-1.
The Grizzlies began the 2nd quickly as well, getting a walk to start the inning followed by a two run home run to put themselves in front 3-2.
The Saints bats couldn't get anything going in the 3rd or 4th innings and the Grizzlies added to their lead in the bottom half of the 4th, getting a run on two Seward errors to extend their lead to two at 4-2.
An RBI double off the bat of Errett Edwards in the 5th got the Saints back to within one and Edwards later stole third and scored on a throwing error from the Grizzlies catcher to tie the score at 4.
With two outs and nobody on in the Butler 5th, a walk, followed by a stolen base and a single plated a run to put the Grizzlies back on top 5-4.
The Grizzlies took a 6-5 lead on an RBI groundout in the 6th and then blew the game wide open in the 7th, scoring their first three runs of the inning on just one hit to take a 9-5 lead. They weren't done there as the Saints couldn't find a way to stop the bleeding. Butler had six runs in before their first out of the inning as they ballooned their advantage to 12-5 and then just went ahead and finished the Saints off with three two out runs to force the run rule in a 15-5 final.
The Saints were beaten in just about every statistical category in the loss, being outhit by the Grizzlies 14-6, committing five errors to Butler's one, and walking six Grizzly hitters on the mound. Justin Graff-Rowe finished 2 for 2 and also walked twice to reach four times for the Saints in the loss while Nethercot was 1 for 4 with the 1st inning home run and two RBI's. The Saints bullpen provided almost no relief for Seward starter Adam Keller as two Seward relievers allowed 10 runs in just 1 2/3 innings. Jonathan Castillo was collared with the loss, allowing six runs, five earned in one plus inning of work to fall to 2-5 on the year.
The split moves the Saints to 24-19 overall and 13-9 in Jayhawk West play where they now sit tied for the fourth and final home spot for the upcoming Region VI Tournament. Butler sits 18-25 overall and 7-15 in league play where they are currently in the 8th and final playoff qualifying spot.
Seward and Butler will hook up again Saturday at McDonald Stadium in a 1:00 start to wrap up the four game set.