MANHATTAN — To decide its seed at the Class 3A baseball tournament, Independent needed a coin toss. Owning the same record as two other teams, it could have landed practically anywhere on the bracket.
Chance decided the Panthers would take on Thomas More Prep as the No. 6 seed. Following a 9-0 loss on Friday at Tointon Family Stadium, Independent coach Jamie Fowler joked that he wanted a do-over.
"It wasn't our day in Vegas," he said. "We ran into a buzzsaw on the mound."
Fowler was referring to Monarchs pitcher Nathan Simmerman. The senior shut down Independent with a mixture of fastballs and other pitches, holding it to two hits and zero quality scoring opportunities.
"Their pitcher was really good," said Independent catcher Henry Lisenby. "I'm looking forward to seeing him on ESPN one day."
Though that statement was part hyperbole, Zimmerman was the best pitcher the Panthers had seen this season. And he proved too strong for a young Independent squad to overcome.
The Monarchs (20-4) scored three runs in the first inning and six in the fourth to take a large lead.
"We couldn't' make plays in the field and we couldn't get the bats rolling," said senior pitcher Brett Soucie. "I'll give credit to their pitcher, he was pretty good. But we just couldn't get the bats rolling."
It was a disappointing end to the season for the Panthers (15-8), but players and coaches were more upbeat than most of the teams that lost on Friday. Part of that was due to the margin of their loss, but mostly it was due to what may come next season.
The Panthers took 11 underclassmen with them on Friday.
"We've got to be one of the youngest teams to ever make it to state," Fowler said. "I just hope they're hungry to work hard and get back next year. They better be."
All but two seniors return, and they both think this trip to state will help the program continue moving in the right direction.
"We had a great season," Lisenby said. "We had some really young guys step up for us. They stepped up so big. They may say it's the senior leadership that got us here, but it's them. They got us here."
Wellsville 7, Bluestem 6 — The Bluestem Lions walked away from their loss lamenting what could have been.
One more strike, one more out, one less inning. That's all it would have taken for them to advance to today's semifinals. Instead, they allowed a winnable game to slip away.
"We had our opportunities," Lions coach Mark Womacks said. "We had our opportunities offensively and defensively. We were ahead 6-0 going into the top of the fifth. But we made a couple of errors and they took advantage of our miscues. You've got to give them credit."
Behind the strong pitching of Clinton Easterday, the Lions (15-8) used eight hits to take control early and lead by as many as six runs.
"We had them off balance early," Womacks said.
But they couldn't hold on in the final three innings. That's when Wellsville used eight hits of their own to score seven runs and end the game on a walk-off single by Clifton Gardner, which came with two outs.
Though the end was frustrating, it was difficult for the Lions to hang their heads over a successful season.
"Our seniors went from one win as freshmen to a state tournament berth," Womacks said. "It's been a great turnaround for them in terms of turning around the program."
Silver Lake 6, Hillsboro 5 — The final loss of the season is never easy, but Hillsboro's 6-5 loss to Silver Lake was as frustrating as they come.
The Trojans lead 4-0 after four innings and held a 4-2 advantage in the seventh inning. Three outs were all that stood in the way of advancing to today's semifinal round against upstart Frontenac. But Silver Lake was able to turn four hits into four game-changing runs.
Pitcher Dylan Delk, who scattered the majority of Silver Lake's 10 hits, gave up a double, three singles and one walk.
"Delk threw a pretty good game, but you can't make mistakes against some of their better hitters," said Hillsboro coach Doug Dick. "And that's what we did."
After leading the whole way, Hillsboro faced its first deficit. The Trojans were able to score one run and load the bases, but two strikeouts from Silver Lake closer Dylan Backman ended the game.
"I really thought going into this game that looking at the stuff I saw from Silver Lake that they're probably the best team in the tournament besides us," Dick said. "I thought that if we beat them we'd be there."
Frontenac (14-10) 000 210 0 — 3 8 1 Council Grove (23-1) 000 010 0 — 1 8 1
Silver Lake (16-7) 000 020 4 — 6 10 2 Hillsboro (16-6) 002 200 1 — 5 5 0
Bluestem (15-8) 103 110 0 — 6 8 2 Wellsville (21-3) 000 032 2 — 7 10 4
Thomas More Prep (20-4) 300 600 0 — 9 8 2 Wichita Independent (15-8) 000 000 0 — 0 0 2