By ALAN HOSKINS
KANSAS CITY, KAN. ----- Kansas City Kansas Community College landed the biggest haymaker of the young Jayhawk Conference baseball season Thursday, knocking Cowley County out of the ranks of the unbeaten with a sweep of the perennial conference power in Arkansas City.
Preston Bailey pitched the Blue Devils to a 6-3 win in the opener and after surrendering a 7-4 lead in the nightcap, KCKCC scored runs in the ninth and 10th innings for a 9-8 win.
“Lucas Norton hit the first pitch of the game for a home run and we never trailed,” said KCKCC Coach Steve Burleson. “It was far from perfect but definitely a great effort. It took the push of every one of the 35 guys on our roster.”
“Two big things,” added assistant coach Damian Stambersky, “Every time Cowley would score, we’d come right back and score and we did not let our mistakes snowball. We also hit the ball (20 hits) against two of the better pitchers we’ve faced this year.”
The sweep sets up a big return home doubleheader Saturday starting at 1 p.m. The defending Jayhawk champion and winner of 13 of 19 league championships, Cowley (12-2) fell two games behind Johnson County and Coffeyville, both 14-0, while KCKCC improved to 4-10 in the league and 10-15 overall.
Preston Bailey outdueled Seth Holman, who had not allowed an earned run in 21 innings, in the opener. A freshman righthander from Savannah, Mo., Bailey gave up seven hits, struck out three and allowed just two earned runs.
Leading 1-0 on Norton’s leadoff home run, the Blue Devils made it 3-0 in the third with Christian Arnold singling in the second of two earned runs. Garrett McKinize made it 5-1 in the fifth with a solo home run and added a run-scoring triple in the seventh. Third baseman Daniel LaMunyon ended the game in spectacular fashion, making a diving backhand stop of a shot down the third base line and throwing to second to start a game-ending double play.
Sam Baxter paced a 13-hit attack in the nightcap, droving in four runs with a single, double and home run while McKinzie singled and doubled and Mitch Glessner singled twice. The assault came against Parker Rigler, who had allowed only one earned run in 15 innings this spring.
Baxter’s home run and Glessner’s two-out run-scoring single gave KCKCC a 7-3 lead in the seventh inning only to have Cowley score once in the bottom of the inning and three more in the eighth after reliever Hunter Phillips had loaded the bases on walks. KCKCC regained the lead in the ninth on a leadoff double by McKinzie, who scored when Arnold’s sacrifice bunt was thrown away only to have the Tigers tie it on an error and a double, both with two out.
Fortunately, Cowley returned the favor in the 10th, giving up two walks with two out. Garrett McKinzie then hit a chopper over the mound that was thrown away and Norton scored what proved to be the winning run when Phillips set down the Tigers in order in the bottom of the 10th. Geoffrey Birkemeier worked the first seven innings, allowing only one earned run on six hits, two strikeouts and no walks.