No. 2 Huskies clinch trip to state with 2-0 win over No. 10 Olathe East

The varsity baseball team clinched a trip to state for the second consecutive year. The Huskies defeated Olathe East, 2-0 at the DAC on May 15. Senior Max Abramovich earned his seventh win of the year and 15th of his career, while senior Scott Duensing picked up the save.

Gabe Swartz, Editor-in-chief

When senior Scott Duensing came in with a 2-run lead, runners on first and second base and one out in the top of the seventh inning of the Huskies regional final against Olathe East, the last thing he heard was a quick message from senior first baseman Holden Missey.

“Hey, timing pick on the third pitch’,” Missey said to Duensing before heading back to his position behind the Olathe East baserunner.

After two fastballs produced a one ball, one strike count on the Hawks sophomore pinch-hitter Blake Andersen, Missey darted behind Olathe East senior Nick Best and Duensing delivered a pickoff throw he described as “a dime” right on time to nab Best and get the second out of the inning.

“It was planned and it worked to perfection,” Duensing said.

After Andersen drew a walk, Duensing got Hawks senior Spencer Nelson to ground weakly to senior third baseman Josh Fiene, who promptly delivered the final out to Missey and clinch a trip to the state tournament for the second consecutive year. Just as was the case the year prior, Duensing picked up the save in the regional final after relieving senior Max Abramovich.

“He’s an incredible pitcher,” head coach Corby Lange said of Duensing. “He really is because he can perform in the clutch and make big pitches when he needs to.”

“He always throws our most important pitches and I think you can make a really good argument that he’s maybe the best pitcher in the state of Kansas and most important, certainly in a lot of ways.”

For the first three innings of the regional final, the Huskies had opportunities to score and could not convert. In the first inning, Fiene grounded into a double play with runners on first and third base. Two innings later, Missey struck out on three pitches with the bases-loaded.

After pounding Blue Valley West pitching to a tune of 10 runs in the regional semifinal, it was the opposite for the Huskies in the nightcap. BVNW got on the board for the first time in the bottom of the fourth inning when a ground ball by senior Jack Beckley got under the glove of Olathe East senior second baseman Ryan Brockschmidt, scoring junior Ryan Freiermuth from second base to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead.

The second BVNW run of the night came in the bottom of the sixth inning when sophomore Jake Dolesh scored on a passed ball after pinch-running for junior Sean Roseborough who doubled off the wall in left field. Lange said the ability of the Huskies to scrap their way to a win offensively was what postseason play is about.

“I mean that’s regional baseball, that’s state baseball and you’ve just gotta keep fighting and you know we had chances early and the kids felt really good about at-bats,” Lange said. “We had hard hit balls that left guys on base, and [the team] kind of said ‘we’re going to get to them’ and I think when you keep putting pressure on that’s what good teams do. They’re gritty, they’re tough, they don’t give in and that’s kind of what our kids did tonight.”

That lead proved to be enough as a dazzling display of strikeouts by Abramovich and the sound fielding of the Huskies defense stifled the Olathe East offense all night long. Abramovich went 6 ⅓ innings, allowing just three hits while striking out seven batters.

“I mean I was just trying to pound strikes,” Abramovich said. “The first time we played them I think I threw like 92 pitches and I threw 89 fastballs and only three sliders… playing them a second time they have already seen my fastball so keeping them on their toes and working in my changeup too really helps out the whole thing.”

The Huskies regional final win was Abramovich’s seventh of the year, tying his single season record for wins set last year. It was also the 15th win of his high school career putting him in sole possession of the all-time wins record in Blue Valley Northwest history.

“I mean it’s more of a team thing because I can’t get a win if they don’t score and play good defense, so it’s not me it’s the whole team,” Abramovich said about becoming the school’s record-holder.

With the win, the Huskies improve their record to 17-5 on the season, and advance to the state tournament next week at Hoglund Ballpark on the campus of the University of Kansas. The 2018 Huskies squad returns with plenty of experience both on the mound and at the plate, something Lange said will be valuable next week.

“There’s no substitute for experience,” Lange said. “I think that being there last year was great. Getting to be there for two full days was great. I think nobody came into regionals with any doubt that we could win the regional, and I don’t think anybody will go into state with any doubt that we can win a state tournament.”

With a third place finish last year at the state tournament, Duensing said this year’s squad has unfinished business.

“We’re here to play and we’re going for that championship.”