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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Neosho likely favorite in Region VI baseball tournament

By TONY ADAME
The Wichita Eagle

Wednesday afternoon, Cowley College baseball coach Dave Burroughs was willing to unload on a number of topics related to the Region VI Tournament beginning Saturday at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium.

First up, the three-year-old format that has reduced the number of teams in Wichita from eight to four.

Coffeyville (31-28) faces Neosho County (45-14) at 1 p.m. in Saturday’s tourney opener. Cowley (31-28) plays Pratt (32-24) at 4 p.m. The losing teams play at 7 p.m. Jayhawk West champion Hutchinson and East champion Johnson County were eliminated on the final day of sub-regional play.

“I’m not going to shy away from tough questions, I don’t like (the four-team format),” Burroughs said. “It doesn’t really seem like a real regional anymore and I definitely think the number of (four-year) coaches and scouts has gone down. The exposure isn’t there. That’s just one man’s opinion of course, and not me speaking for the school or anybody else.”

Burroughs also didn’t hesitate to break down the rest of the field — singling out 6-foot-2, 215-pound Neosho sophomore Adam Giacalone, a Shawnee native who signed with Tennessee in the fall and is one of the top junior-college players in the nation.

Giacalone, a pitcher/infielder, leads the Panthers with a .414 batting average, 12 home runs and 56 RBIs. On the mound, he’s 7-3 with a 1.90 ERA and 79 strikeouts.

Teammate Matt Strahm, who is headed to Nebraska, is Neosho’s ace. Strahm is 7-3 with a 1.33 ERA and 114 strikeouts.

“Giacalone is a special player, that’s not hard to tell,” Burroughs said. “I think Neosho’s pitching makes them the favorite. Top to bottom, their whole staff is pretty incredible.”

Coffeyville and Pratt pulled upsets in sub-regional play to make it to Wichita. The Beavers had to beat Johnson County in Overland Park. Sophomore Skyler Angood, a Pratt native and the 2010 Class 4A player of the year, leads Pratt with a .438 batting average, 89 hits and 11 home runs.

“(Pratt coach) Ryan Schmidt is as good of a young coach as you’ll find in the business,” Burroughs said. “And (Coffeyville coach) John Martin has done some great things … I know we had some problems with them.”

The Red Ravens took 3 of 4 games from Cowley to close out the regular season.

The one thing Burroughs wouldn’t expound on was his own team — a superstition wrought from one of his pitchers getting shelled in his first appearance at Region VI after a newspaper story on the pitcher appeared the day of the game.

Sophomore Garrett Bane — not the pitcher in question — leads the Tigers with an 8-1 record and a 2.64 ERA. Freshman first baseman Mike Parker leads Cowley with a .430 batting average, three home runs and 34 RBIs.

“We’re not a team full of stars,” said Burroughs, in his 25th season at Cowley. “Hopefully we’ve put together a club that can come in and compete. But I don’t think we’ve got that one guy, that one superstar player.”

Reach Tony Adame at tadame@wichitaeagle.com or 316-268-6284.

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