Baseball team loses in first round of state tournament

Jaguars fall to Shawnee Heights in state quarterfinal and end season 17-6

Tori Aerni, JagWire editor-in-chief

After scoring the first eight runs of the 5A baseball quarterfinal on Thursday, May 26, giving them an early 8-0 lead, the Jaguars failed to stop a comeback by the Shawnee Heights Thunderbirds, ultimately falling 11-9.

Sophomore Will Morris began the game with a single on his first at bat. Senior outfielder Lucas Krull followed with a double, bringing Morris home and the score to 1-0. In the bottom of the inning, senior pitcher Tyler Grauer did not allow a run on the mound for the Jaguars.

The second inning was a shutout for both teams, but in the third inning, the momentum fell on the Jaguar’s side in full force. Consecutive RBIs by senior outfielder AJ Knight, Grauer, junior outfielder Luke Sosaya and senior third baseman Brendan Shutt brought the score to 6-0 at the end of the inning.

The team’s play in these innings was some of the strongest of the season, just as they had hoped, according to Shutt.

“The first few innings we were lights out, we showed out, we came to the park ready to play,” Shutt said. “We didn’t carry that into the second half as well … but [before the rain delay] was the best baseball we played all year.”

The runs didn’t stop there. In the fourth inning, RBIs by Knight and Grauer extended the Jaguars lead to 8-0. But the energy shifted to the opposite dugout in the bottom of the inning — Shawnee Heights scored three runs before senior pitcher Jack Nielsen took over on the mound. Two more runs were added to the board before the end of the inning, cutting the Thunderbird’s deficit to 8-5.

As Shawnee Heights began to make a comeback, head coach Jeff Strickland said that the team’s focus was to keep getting hits and bringing in runs.

“Don’t take anything for granted and no lead is ever safe,” Strickland said. “You always want more and more and that’s kind of what we were harping on the kids.”

In the next two innings, Shawnee Heights came within one run and brought the score to 8-7. A thunderstorm then delayed the game for two hours, leaving the Thunderbirds with two outs and the bases loaded.

According to Shutt, this delay did not have an effect on the Jaguar’s mentality, but rather affected the momentum for their opponents.

“The rain delay didn’t actually have as much of an impact as it might have seemed,” Shutt said. “It probably decreased Heights momentum a little bit because they were really riding on us going into the rain delay.”

Once the game resumed, Krull came in to pitch, allowing two consecutive walks to give the Thunderbirds a 9-8 lead.

Strickland said that Krull wanted the opportunity to be in the pitching position with the bases loaded after the rain delay, a decision Strickland “respects for a high school kid.”

Strickland realizes the unpredictability of high school baseball and does not believe that the loss came from inadequate play.

“[With] high school baseball, anything can go wrong,” Strickland said. “It wasn’t that we played poorly, it was that Shawnee Heights made plays.”
The team finished with a 17-6 record and will graduate 13 seniors.

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