Northwest gets hot, finishes week with 4 wins
Go east, young man. Then west.
The Shawnee Mission Northwest baseball team did just that last week and did it successfully.
After sweeping Shawnee Mission East on Monday with a doubleheader at 3&2 Baseball Complex, the Cougars traveled west to Lawrence (with a side trip to CommunityAmerica Ballpark) for the weekend, winning two of their three games in the River City Baseball Classic in a 4-1 week.
If the pioneer analogy can be forgiven, a four-game win streak had been unexplored territory for the Cougars during the 2007 season, so the heed to head west for victories seems fitting, as blazing new trails seems to be working.
"The pitching has been good," coach Rich Kuzydym after his Cougars outscored their opponents 48-19 last week. "We still have to shore up our defense, but our hitting is coming around. If we ever do shore up our defense, then we'll be a team to be reckoned with. It was a real good week."
Northwest opened up the week by sweeping the Lancers 13-3 and 8-3 behind strong pitching from senior pitchers Matt Page and Matt Lange, respectively.
They then had the treat of playing their opening contest in Lawrence Free State's River City Baseball Classic at CommunityAmerica Ballpark in Wyandotte County. The picturesque ball park, the home of the Northern League's Kansas City T-Bones, was a perfect setting for a great ballgame between the Cougars and Shawnee Heights of Topeka.
The two teams battled back and forth, exchanging leads before finally going into extra innings tied at 6-6. In the eighth inning, sophomore outfielder Dusty Deal delivered a bases-loaded game-winning hit to give Northwest a 7-6 win.
When asked whether his team enjoyed the field, the atmosphere, the fans, or the stadium the most, Kuzydym replied, "All of the above. It was a fantastic experience. We played against a good team. It was really fun. It was a great game."
On Friday, the Cougars played at Hoglund Ballpark on the campus of the University of Kansas against Springfield Hillcrest from Missouri. Northwest jumped on Hillcrest early and often, taking advantage of eight fielding errors by the Hornets and pounding out 12 hits for an 18-0, mercy-rule shortened game.
Page again came up a winner, allowing just two hits in four innings of work. Several Cougars had multiple hits.
Saturday, the Cougars played Warrensburg High School and fell 7-2 at the Free State High field.
With a string of wins under their belts, the Cougars now face the task of building on the momentum they established last week while taking on a schedule that is packed with games over the next few weeks -- a result of the plentiful supply of early-season weather cancellations.
"I don't know," said Kuzydym when asked if the upcoming string of games without a practice will aid or hinder the Cougars. "We'll see. This week we play Tuesday through Saturday. You want to have a couple of days of practice so you can work on the things that need improving from the last game, but this is what we've got to do. We've got to get a 20-game schedule in."
After a Tuesday date with Olathe North at ODAC, the Cougars will face Shawnee Mission North at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday at 3&2, and then will play a twin bill with Shawnee Mission West and Shawnee Mission South on Saturday, taking on the Vikings at 12 p.m. and the Raiders at 3 p.m.