St. James baseball splits at CommunityAmerica Ballpark, improves to 6-1
KANSAS CITY, KAN. — Everything appeared to be moving efficiently for the St. James and Bishop Miege baseball teams Saturday, an otherwise questionable weather day around CommunityAmerica Ballpark.
Junior pitcher Jansen Keyes pitched a gem going three and two-thirds innings without allowing a hit. He maneuvered around his five walks by striking out six batters in the process.
“Our pitching was good all day,” St. James coach Brian Bucklin said. “We struggled being in the zone. It wasn’t easy, but he kept us in the game.”
But the solid Roeland Park squad could not be held down the entire day. A walk and a couple blooper hits loaded the bases for the Stags before their cleanup hitter, junior Mike Baxter, stepped up to the plate.
Miege’s centerfielder drew a walk and struck out in his previous two plate appearances, but the third time was right for Baxter as he got a pitch up over the plate and lifted it up in the air so the whipping south wind would grab it. The ball carried over the fence to bolster the Stags to a 4-2 lead, which ended up being the final score.
“They got the timely hit when it mattered,” Bucklin said.
It proved difficult for St. James to recover from the four-run homer as the Thunder’s consistent offensive output screeched to a halt in the last two innings.
With one player already out, the team rallied in the seventh inning when the top two hitters in the lineup, senior Austin Murrell and sophomore Alex King, both knocked singles into play.
The Thunder appeared close to breaking through, but Bishop Miege senior Curtis Marchand locked it down for the Stags as he struck out St. James’ Jake Wodtke looking and then forced a dribble down the baseline that the first baseman easily recorded for the final out. After winning the first five games of the year, including a 6-2 victory earlier in the day against Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Thunder were still content with the outcome at CommunityAmerica.
“These type of games we can learn from, and our best baseball is still yet to be played,” Bucklin said. “We want to be peaking by the time regionals roll around.”
Playing two contests in a day is not an issue either, because many of the players compete two or three games a day in the summer. The case will be the same at regionals.
“We kind of build like a tournament type of atmosphere,” Bucklin said. “We’re going to have to do it sometime this year and we’re planning on it.”
What the Thunder weren’t planning on was the emergence of both King and Matt Sostarich contributing so much to the lineup. Bucklin hopes this trend continues throughout the spring.
Regardless of the result, it’s still always a nice feeling for the high school players to play in a professional ballpark. In fact, the Thunder will return to CommunityAmerica for the Butch Foster Memorial Baseball Classic later this month.
“It’s easy to get out there and play,” Bucklin said. “There’s not as many bad hops and the crack of the bat sounds better in the amphitheater-type of park.”
The Thunder expected this to be a big week, starting with Tuesday’s matchup at Rockhurst. St. James will then play Leavenworth and SM Northwest in the River City Festival in Lawrence.