Huskies’ hot bats blast past Blues in quarterfinal win

The varsity baseball team defeated Washburn Rural 9-3 in the state quarterfinals Thursday at Hoglund Ballpark. Senior Will Dennis improved his record to 5-2 on the season, picking up the win on the mound.

Gabe Swartz, Editor-in-chief

LAWRENCE, Kan. — In what will be his final season at the helm for the Blue Valley Northwest varsity baseball team, Corby Lange expressed a confidence in his players that few coaches are willing to. While Lange originally planned to have his staff ace, senior Max Abramovich take the mound in the Huskies’ quarterfinal matchup with Washburn Rural Thursday, he said a discussion with members of the team led him to tab senior Will Dennis with the start.

“The kids kind of decided ‘Coach, we’ll win game one,” Lange said. “‘Just throw Will and stick with the plan’, and Will did a great job there.”

During last year’s state tournament run- which produced the best finish in school history- Lange elected to go with his senior ace in Johnny Sprinkle. This time around, with more experience and a team filled to the brim with confidence, Lange took a risk on his No. 2 starter and it paid off.  

“It’s their team and they wanted to play to win ‘em all,” Lange said after the Huskies 9-3 win over Washburn Rural.

The decision to start Dennis was off to a rough start when the Huskies senior left-hander struggled through a first inning which saw the Blues score two runs on four walks and a single. Dennis struggled to find the strike zone, but was able to escape a bases-loaded jam when he induced a ground ball to senior third baseman Josh Fiene who promptly stepped on third and threw across the diamond to senior first baseman Holden Missey to complete the play.

“I feel like just having that damage control and not letting it get too far out of our hands and allowing us to stay in it [was important],” Dennis said, “because we were going to score runs.”

The two-run deficit for BVNW was quickly made up as Missey’s single to right field started a second inning rally that knotted the score at 2-2. With Missey aboard at first base, junior Ryan Freiermuth reached base via error, setting the table for an RBI triple by junior Sean Roseborough. A miscommunication between Lange and Freiermuth on the basepaths ended up with the junior left fielder being thrown out at the plate, but senior Drew Black’s sacrifice fly in the next at-bat was enough to tie the game up.

Roseborough said the ability of the Huskies to respond to adversity has been a common theme throughout the year.

“That’s just what we do,” Roseborough said. “We try to get on and as soon as possible, and they just happened to score before us. That’s not a problem because we have enough hitting to back ourselves up.”

The Huskies backed Dennis up on the mound with run support with a four-run fourth inning, highlighted by a 2-run single by Freiermuth which scored Fiene and Missey. Black and sophomore Matt Miller tacked on RBI singles of their own to finish off the inning, but in the sixth inning, Roseborough connected on his fifth home run of the season when a fly ball to the left field corner snuck inside the foul pole to give the Huskies a 7-2 lead.

“I knew that they were going to make mistakes and I just wanted to capitalize on that and not miss them,” Roseborough said of his 2-RBI performance.

With a sizable lead in hand, and Dennis out of the game due to a nine-walk, high pitch count outing, Lange was forced to mix and match with his pitching staff to set the Huskies up for success on Friday. Lange got an inning and a third from junior David Kephart and an out from junior Tyler McQuinn before he went to his All-State First Team left-hander in a bases-loaded jam in the top of the seventh inning.

From there, senior Scott Duensing shut down the Blues bats, making quick work with two pitches and two weak pop outs to Missey finishing off the Huskies 9-3 win.

“We felt like in order to win them all we had to look at it like it’s a whole staff of 21 innings,” Lange said. “How do we get everybody available? And with two games tomorrow, the goal was to not take Kephart or Scotty over 29 pitches today so that they would be available for maximum amount of pitches tomorrow and obviously we’ve got Max [Abramovich] fresh, too.”

The Huskies win improves their record for the season to 18-5. They will take on the No. 3 seed Derby Panthers in the state semifinals tomorrow at 11 a.m. at Hoglund Ballpark.

“We’re just going to take it one inning at a time, one pitch at a time tomorrow but that was kind of our goal going into it. The kids wanted to play to win them all and that’s what we set up to do.”