The road to State

After defeating the Hiawatha Red Hawks in the quarterfinals, the Jays had some seventh-inning magic over Jeff West and Bishop Ward that propelled them to a State berth.

The Sabetha Bluejay baseball team matched up against the Hiawatha Red Hawks in the opening game of the 2024 Class 3A Regional Baseball Tournament on Thursday, May 9, hosted by Jefferson West in Ozawkie, Kan. The Jays’ offense and defense proved to be too much for the Red Hawks, as the Jays ended the contest in five innings with a dominating 11-1 victory.

The Jays took advantage of a strong wind out to left center to repeatedly drive the ball over the fence and to the fence, as they collected four doubles and a grand slam to score 11 runs in four innings. The Jays entered the tournament as the number two seed with a 16-5 record and a solid finish to the regular season.

Then, in back-to-back games, the Sabetha Bluejay baseball squad used three-run seventh innings either to come from behind or break a deadlock to come out victorious to keep their season alive. The Jays came into the 2024 Class 3A Regional Baseball Tournament as the number two seed behind the undefeated and number one ranked team in Class 3A, the Bishop Ward Cyclones with a 20-0 record.

Quarterfinals

Junior hurler Mitchel Kramer took the mound for the Jays and pitched the first three innings. Kramer retired the first eight batters before giving up a single with two out in the top of the third. That base runner was quickly erased as sophomore catcher Reid Mitchell threw out the runner on a steal attempt.

Senior pitcher Chase Frey came on in the top of the fourth and retired the first batter, before giving up a single that the runner was thrown out at second on a dart thrown by senior right fielder Will Ulrich to clear the bases. Frey struck out the final batter to end the inning. In the fifth inning after an error, a hit batter and a wild pitch, Frey worked out of a bases-loaded jam with two outs with a fly ball to left field to end the game.

Kramer pitched three innings and allowed no runs on one hit with three strikeouts. Frey pitched two innings and gave up one unearned run on two hits with one walk and three strikeouts.

The Jay offense was led by seniors Christian McAfee and Aiden Lang, as the duo combined for five of the nine hits collected by the Jays. The Jays wasted little time as they scored eight runs in the first two innings and then added three in the bottom of the fourth to basically end the contest.

Seniors Frey and Jacob Grimm each had a pair of RBIs, but the big blow in the game came in the bottom of the second inning. Left fielder Lang came to the plate with the bases loaded. After fouling off a pitch, Lang parked the next pitch over the left center field wall for a grand slam home run to give him his fifth RBI of the game. Lang ended the game going two for two at the plate, while McAfee was three for three at the plate with a double and three runs scored.

Semifinals

The Jays moved into the semifinals on Tuesday, May 14, against the Jefferson West Tigers after defeating the Hiawatha Red Hawks, 11-1, on Thursday, May 9. The Jays and the Tigers had split the two games they had played earlier in the season against each other and entered the tournament with similar records.

In a pitcher’s duel through the first 6-1/2 innings, the Jays’ senior hurler Christian McAfee gave the Jays seven solid innings to keep the game close for a chance to win and advance to the finals against Bishop Ward. McAfee turned in a masterful 95-pitch performance and allowed just four hits with a pair of runs allowed with two walks and two strikeouts.

McAfee was backed up by a couple of great defensive plays in the outfield. Senior right fielder Will Ulrich made a shoestring catch on a line drive in the second inning, and senior left fielder Aiden Lang made a running catch on a deep fly ball to left center to save a run in the fifth inning. The Tiger starter Cooper Watkins scattered five hits over six innings to the Jays and left the game after six innings with a 1-0 lead.

The Tigers tacked on an insurance run in the top of the seventh and were leading 2-0 when the Jays came to bat in the bottom of the final inning. Junior shortstop Mitchel Kramer started the rally with a walk followed by senior center fielder Marcus Bauman — who was three for four in the game — shooting a single up the middle. With runners at second and third, McAfee drove a ball to the center field wall that the center fielder dropped, allowing Kramer to score to close the gap, 2-1.

Senior third baseman Chase Frey ripped a single to left field to score Bauman to tie the game at 2-2 and move McAfee to third. After a walk by senior designated hitter Jacob Grimm, the bases were loaded and the stage was set for Lang. Lang had been held to a single with a pair of strikeouts to that point. Lang laced a single to left field to drive in McAfee for the 3-2 improbable come-from-behind win and set off the first celebration of the day.

Finals

The only thing now between the Jays and a third consecutive trip to the State tournament next week in Manhattan was the Bishop Ward Cyclones, with a 22-0 record and a number one ranking in the state. The game was everything you would expect between the top two seeds, solid pitching and timely hitting.

Junior pitcher Mitchel Kramer was on the mound for the Jays and senior Chris Mancinas took the hill for the Cyclones, and both pitchers kept the opposing team at bay with the score heading into the seventh inning tied at 1-1. Up to this point, the Jays had been limited to one run on three hits.

Senior Will Ulrich and Kramer led off the top of the seventh with back-to-back singles. Senior Marcus Bauman was hit by a pitch after a balk and moved the runners to second and third base, loading the bases. Mancinas threw a wild pitch, and Ulrich broke for home and slid safely into home for the go ahead run. Senior Christian McAfee came to the plate with runners at second and third and ripped a single through the infield to knock in two runs to break the game open at 4-1.

Kramer faced the first batter in the bottom of the seventh with a 4-1 lead and after striking him out, Kramer had to exit the game because he had exceeded the maximum pitch count.

Up to that point, Kramer had allowed just one run and had scattered six hits with two walks and nine strikeouts over the 6-1/3 innings. Senior reliever Jacob Grimm came on in relief and got the first batter to ground out to short and the final batter to hit a grounder to senior third baseman Chase Frey, who threw him out to end the game and set off a wild celebration.

This win would send the Jays to Manhattan on Thursday, May 23, to KSU-Tointon Family Stadium for the Class 3A State Championship Baseball Tournament.

“I’ve asked the guys to just find a way no matter what it takes and they did just that,” said Head Coach Curtis Hamilton. “We fell behind in the Jeff West game and we were down to our last three outs and they found a way. Then against a really good Bishop Ward team and a really good pitcher they again found a way to win the game. We got contributions from everyone throughout the day and they really won as a team. It was a great day for our program and our team and I am extremely excited that these seniors get another shot at the state tournament.”

 

vs. Hiawatha

Player Name

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Mitchel Kramer

3

1

0

0

0

0

Marcus Bauman

3

1

1

0

0

0

Christian McAfee

3

3

3

0

0

0

Jacob Grimm

1

2

1

2

1

0

Chase Frey

2

2

1

2

1

0

Reid Mitchell

3

0

0

0

0

0

Aiden Lang

2

1

2

5

0

0

Harper Schmelzle

2

0

0

0

0

0

Will Ulrich

1

1

1

0

1

0

LINE SCORE

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

Sabetha

3

5

0

3

X

X

X

X

X

11

9

1

Hiawatha

0

0

0

0

1

X

X

X

X

1

3

2

Game Pitching

Name

IP

#P

S%

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Mitchel Kramer

3.0

25

0.72

1

0

0

0

3

Chase Frey

2.0

38

57.9

2

1

0

1

3

 

vs. Jeff West

Player Name

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Mitchel Kramer

2

1

0

0

1

0

Marcus Bauman

4

1

3

0

0

1

Christian McAfee

4

1

1

0

0

0

Jacob Grimm

2

0

1

0

2

1

Chase Frey

4

0

1

1

0

1

Reid Mitchell

3

0

0

0

0

2

Aiden Lang

4

0

2

1

0

2

Harper Schmelzle

2

0

0

0

1

1

Will Ulrich

2

0

0

0

0

2

LINE SCORE

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

Sabetha

0

0

0

0

0

0

3

X

X

3

8

1

Jeff West

0

0

0

0

1

0

1

X

X

2

4

4

Game Pitching

Name

IP

#P

S%

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Christian McAfee

7.0

95

60.0

4

2

2

2

2

 

vs. Bishop Ward

Player Name

AB

R

H

RBI

BB

SO

Mitchel Kramer

2

2

1

0

2

1

Marcus Bauman

3

1

1

0

0

0

Christian McAfee

4

0

1

2

0

0

Jacob Grimm

3

0

0

0

1

1

Chase Frey

4

0

0

0

0

1

Reid Mitchell

3

0

1

0

0

2

Aiden Lang

4

0

1

0

0

2

Harper Schmelzle

2

0

0

0

1

2

Will Ulrich

2

1

1

0

1

0

LINE SCORE

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

R

H

E

Sabetha

0

0

0

0

1

0

3

X

X

4

6

0

Bishop Ward

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

X

X

1

6

2

Game Pitching

Name

IP

#P

S%

H

R

ER

BB

SO

HR

Jacob Grimm

0.2

7

57.1

0

0

0

0

0

Mitchel Kramer

6.1

110

62.7

6

1

1

2

9

 

Tim Kellenberger92 Posts

Tim Kellenberger serves as Owner, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief for The Sabetha Herald since 2004. He specializes in sports reporting and column writing, as well as sports photography. Tim is a Grace University graduate with a dual degree in agricultural economics and human resource management. He lives in rural Sabetha with his wife and has four grown children and two grandchildren.

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