No. 1 Blue Valley ends No. 2 Blue Valley Northwest championship hopes, wins back-to-back titles

The varsity baseball team fell in the 2018 KSHSAA Class 6A state championship game, 1-0 to Blue Valley High. Senior Scott Duensing went six innings, allowing just one run in defeat.

Gabe Swartz, Editor-in-chief

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — For the first six and one third innings of Saturday morning’s state championship game between Blue Valley High and Blue Valley Northwest, the Tigers held a one-run lead. After Blue Valley High junior pitcher Andrew Dennis allowed senior Drew Black to single to right field, a sacrifice bunt by senior Jack Beckley moved Black into scoring position. On the first pitch of sophomore Matt Miller’s at-bat, Dennis’ pitch scooted under the glove of junior catcher Walker Kinney, allowing Black to advance to third on the passed ball.

Standing on third base as the tying run, head coach Corby Lange leaned in and gave some advice to Black.

“I told him be aggressive,” Lange said. “I figured we weren’t going to get a ton of opportunities.”

With the count at 3-2, Miller grounded a ball a couple of steps to the right of Blue Valley junior third baseman Alex Totta. Totta fielded the ball, squared up and fired home for Kinney’s tag of Black to cut down the Huskies attempt to tie the game.

“[Coach Lange] told me to trust my wheels,” Black said of the base-running situation. Whether Black’s remembrance of Lange’s advice was correct or not, the Huskies senior second baseman placed the blame on himself.

“He said see it through, and I jumped the gun. So that’s on me.”

After Black was thrown out at the plate, senior Clayton Leathers struck out to end the game. Dennis locked down the second consecutive Kansas Class 6A baseball state championship for Blue Valley, and ended the Huskies chances of a first baseball state championship in school history.  

Pitching after saves in BVNW’s quarterfinal and semifinal wins over Washburn Rural and Derby, senior Scott Duensing turned in another signature performance on the mound. In the first inning, Duensing gave up a run on a single to left field by Braden Petersohn, but was able to escape the bases-loaded jam to keep the BVNW deficit at 1-0.

“Our entire team’s energy was there today,” Duensing said with a hoarse voice, emotional after the loss.

Over the course of the next five innings, the Huskies senior lefty was able to carve up the Blue Valley lineup, and solid defense from the Huskies kept the game within reach.

“[Duensing] pitched awesome,” Lange said. “He did everything we could have asked him to do and more all season, and today.”

“We practiced for this moment and you see that scoreboard and we didn’t make any errors,” sophomore center fielder Matt Miller said. “That’s Husky ball right there, you can’t do anything else.”

Throughout the early morning, the No. 2 seed Huskies had multiple scoring chances, each squandered in a different way. With the bases loaded in the top of the first inning, junior left fielder Ryan Freiermuth flied out to left field to end the inning. In the fourth inning, senior first baseman Holden Missey’s one-out triple went to waste as Freiermuth popped out to foul territory and junior designated hitter Sean Roseborough struck out swinging to end the threat.

In the previous two matchups between BVNW and BV, the Huskies and Tigers combined for 39 runs, with each team winning one game apiece in the 2018 season series. On Saturday morning, with Blue Valley junior Jay Long and Duensing on the mound, the game shaped up to be a pitcher’s duel.

“It’s funny,” Lange said, “because I think I was expecting it to be a slugfest game and I think that would have favored us a lot more. We had chances early and we just couldn’t get the ball to fall at all. But yeah, that’s baseball.”

In the fifth inning the Huskies got their first two batters on as Black and Beckley reached base via a walk and a hit by pitch. With no one out and two runners on base, Miller was unable to get a bunt down to move the runners and after Andrew Dennis relieved Long, the Tigers junior was able to get a strikeout and a fielder’s choice to escape another BVNW scoring threat.

“It was unbelievable,” Duensing said. “Our guys just couldn’t find holes when we were hitting.”

With BVNW’s ten strikeouts at the plate for the day, the Huskies offense came up short and Blue Valley earned their fifth baseball state championship in school history.

The Huskies loss ended their season with a 19-6 record and a second place finish. For the second consecutive year, the varsity baseball team finished with the best place in school history. Still, Miller said it was not enough.

“The record doesn’t matter,” Miller said. “We just wanted to win the state championship for our seniors.”

After announcing his resignation last week, Lange said he will leave this season with very few regrets.

“I don’t know if I’ll regret anything,” Lange said. “I think that it’s just you’ve got to tip your cap. [Blue Valley] got out of jams, and we had chances and I think we competed really well and so did they. It was just a tight ball game.”

“I just had a lifetime of memories, just how much they are great teammates. I mean the whole group there just cared about all the right things. They deserve all the credit. They deserve all the credit. They are just an awesome group of kids.”