It’s hard for Maize coach Rocky Helm not to take senior John Short for granted on the mound.
Serving as the team’s go-to pitcher in big games, Short, a lefty, has been marvelous so many times this season for the Eagles and on Wednesday he delivered his latest masterpiece.
Short threw a complete game in a Class 5A regional championship game against Eisenhower, limiting the Tigers to only three baserunners and no earned runs in a 6-1 victory for Maize.
“That’s just kind of what I expect out of him every time,” Helm said. “He does a great job pitching for us and he just knows how to set guys up.”
The championship game had the makings of a pitcher’s duel, as Eisenhower ace Tanner Congleton proved up to the challenge through three innings with the teams tied at 1 run apiece.
But Congleton, who had the only two hits of the game against Short, was forced from the game in the bottom of the fourth inning after an awkward slide on the basepaths in the top-half following a gapper he hit to the fence. Eisenhower coach Cary Dinkel said afterward the injury was serious enough to end his night, but shouldn’t be a long-term injury.
“That was the turning point of the game,” Dinkel said. “Tanner was cruising and he’s been so good for us the last few outings. Once he had to leave the game, I think that kind of put our kids in panic mode and we could never recover.”
Eisenhower would get through the next inning unscathed, but Maize’s bats sensed the crisis of confidence and pounced in the fifth inning.
Jake Doerflinger led off the inning with a single, followed by back-to-back RBI doubles from Chandler Kelley and Dawson Sramek for a 3-1 lead. Jacob Taylor, who smashed two home runs in Maize’s 13-2, run-rule victory over Great Bend earlier in the day, extended the lead with a sacrifice fly and John Short capped the 4-run inning with a RBI single back up the middle.
Short would finish a perfect 5-for-5 in the two games to lead Maize in hitting, but it was Taylor with four hits — two blasts over the fence and one off the wall — that had the hardest hits of the day.
“I think the ball may have looked really big to him today,” Helm said of Taylor. “He had a lot of really good swings today.”
Maize added another insurance run in sixth — not that it would need it with Short dealing. He closed the game by recording 11 straight outs.
Maize finished the championship game with 13 hits, as Chandler Kelley (3), Sramek (2), Taylor (2), Short (2), and Doerflinger (2) all came through with multi-hit performances.
The Eagles (19-3) will return to the Class 5A tournament for the second straight season, as they will receive either the second or third seed in next week’s tournament at Wichita State’s Eck Stadium.
“Every year (to win it all) it’s going to take a little bit of luck and getting in the right situation,” Helm said. “This is a veteran club and they’ve been through it once and they’re looking forward to going through it again. Hopefully they can play relaxed and play like we know we can.”
Eisenhower (9-13) advanced to the championship game by defeating Liberal (13-6) in the semifinals 9-1, as Wade Reynolds delivered three runs batted in and Mason Elston and Parker Wenzel each came through with two hits apiece to lead the Tigers.
Kade Short registered the victory on the mound, tossing a complete game allowing no earned runs, scattering six hits over seven innings and striking out six and issuing no walks.
“We preached all year about doing the small things right and it took us a long time to figure it out,” Dinkel said. “It took us about 18 games to understand the right way to play. We have a young group of kids, but they bought in and I’m so proud of these kids for how far they’ve come this season.”
EISENHOWER 9, LIBERAL 1
9 10 0
1 5 4
W: Short. L: Bigham.
EISENHOWER: Elston 2-5, Baker 1-3, Reynolds 2-4, Congleton 1-4, Nuessen 1-3, B. Wenzel 0-4, P. Wenzel 2-4, Wisner 1-3, Orand 0-3. Pitching: Short 7 IP-0 ER.
LIBERAL: Carrillo 1-3, Burciaga 1-3, Evans 1-3, Brown 0-3, Wilmos 0-3, Terrazas 0-2, Symons 0-1, Bigham 0-3, McCarter 1-1, Hyde 0-1, Hinkle 1-2. Pitching: Bigham 4 IP-3 ER, Hyde 2-3, Yanez 1-0.
MAIZE 13, GREAT BEND 2
Great Bend (7-12)
2 5 2
12 13 4
W: Doerflinger. L: Perry. HR: Maize, Taylor (2).
GREAT BEND: Ireland 2-3, Lytle 0-2, Brack 1-3, Smith 2-3, Perry 0-2, Kaiser 0-2, Mauler 0-2, Bujandu 0-2, Burnham 0-1, Mitchell 0-1. Pitching: Perry 1 1/3 IP-7 ER, Lytle 1 1/3-4, Burnham 1 1/3-1.
MAIZE: Hartman 1-4, Kelley 1-2, Sramek 3-4, Taylor 2-3, LaMunyon 1-2, Short 3-3, McIntyre 0-1, Lynch 0-2, Shields 1-2, Doerflinger 1-2. Pitching: Doerflinger 5 IP-1 ER.
MAIZE 6, EISENHOWER 1 (CHAMPIONSHIP)
1 2 0
6 13 1
W: Short. L: Reynolds.
EISENHOWER: Elston 0-3, Baker 0-3, Reynolds 0-3, Congleton 2-2, Mackey 0-1, Nuessen 0-3, B. Wenzel 0-1, Ellingson 0-1, P. Wenzel 0-2, Wisner 0-2, Orand 0-2. Pitching: Congleton 3 1/3 IP-1 ER, Mackey 0 2/3-0, Reynolds 0 2/3-4, Ellingson 1 1/3-1.
MAIZE: Hartman 1-3, Kelley 3-4, Sramek 2-4, Taylor 2-3, LaMunyon 0-3, Short 2-2, Lynch 0-2, Shields 1-3, Doerflinger 2-3. Pitching: Short 7 IP-0 ER.