SMNW baseball falls to BVNW, 6-1, in regional title game
Lenexa After the Shawnee Mission Northwest baseball team grabbed an early lead over Blue Valley Northwest with a Bhargav Marada RBI triple in the second inning of Monday's Class 6A regional final on Monday, the Cougars were feeling good about their chances with senior Dylan Nedved on the mound.
Things went south in a hurry for the Cougars in the third, though, as two errors turned into four runs for the Huskies. The Cougars were never able to recover, and suffered a season-ending 6-1 loss.
With one on and one out in the top of the third, Marada — the Cougars' catcher — threw behind Drake Marker to try to pick him off of first. Marada's throw sailed into right field to move Marker to second. Riley Zerni then reached on a throwing error by SM Northwest third baseman Jacob Ramirez later in the at-bat, and Marker came around to score to tie it up at 1-1.
Nedved was able to bounce back to strike out Jacob Sula, but the Huskies were able to make the Cougars pay for their defensive miscues with back-to-back blasts from Eric Ellefson and Josh Fiene.
"It's a mental game and when the mental stuff goes, then the physical stuff starts to follow in behind it," SM Northwest coach Domenic Mussat said. "That's the game of baseball. You've got to be prepared for it."
Mussat tried to send a message to his players to get their minds into the game when he had the Cougars who were in the dugout run to the foul pole and back when the Huskies started to threaten again in the fourth. Nedved got out of the jam, though, with one of his nine strikeouts.
The SM Northwest coach commended Nedved for how he stepped into the starting role of fellow senior Joe Todd, who has been sidelined with a knee injury.
"He's been huge. He's bee a good leader to come in — in the dugout, on the field," said Mussat of Nedved. "He's done a great job for us, and we wish him well at the next level."
The Huskies were able to knock Nedved out of the game in the fifth with a two-out RBI single from Mitchell Bloss. After George Specht came on in relief to record the final out of the inning, the Cougars reminded themselves in the dugout that they were in a similar situation against the Huskies just nine days earlier.
In the Cougars' 6-5 loss to the Huskies on May 6, they rallied for three runs in the seventh before falling short. The Cougars tried to mount another comeback on Monday, as they loaded the bases in the fifth with three consecutive two-out walks by Austin Bell, Alex Rice and Nedved. Huskies starter Max Abramovich was able to find his command when it mattered most, though, as he struck out Javier Pena to get out of the inning unscathed.
The three walks in the fifth were the only base runners allowed by Abramovich after Marada's two-out triple in the second.
"He had a good night," said Mussat of Abramovich. "They beat our best. They were better than we were tonight."
Abramovich's night was done after the fifth, but Scott Duensing continued to keep the Cougars off-balance — only allowing one hit in two scoreless innings of relief.
The Cougars (16-6) were able to reach the regional final after a 10-5 win over SM South earlier in the afternoon. Josh Mitchell powered the Cougars by going 2-for-5 with five RBIs and a run scored. Marada also had a two-hit game and drove in a run.
"We hit the ball. We swung at good pitches," Mussat said. "We took our time. We saw good pitches. We just put the bat on the ball and we barreled up a lot of stuff."
While Mussat was disappointed that the Cougars fell short of a trip to the 6A state tournament in Lawrence, he was proud of how they performed over the course of the season.
"Just looking at how a bunch of seniors played as sophomores at the varsity level and their positive leadership with what they've done over the season," Mussat said. "Hopefully it carries on to our juniors who will fill in for them next year."