Just a year ago, Northwest held a comfortable 8-4 lead in the seventh inning of its quarterfinal matchup with Blue Valley in the Class 6A baseball tournament.
The Grizzlies gave up eight runs and lost 12-8.
When Washburn Rural led Northwest 4-0 in the seventh inning Thursday, all the returning players could say was, “Remember Blue Valley?”
Then Northwest scored seven runs on four hits, three walks and a hit batter, defeating the Junior Blues 7-5 at Hoglund Ballpark to advance to Friday’s semifinals.
Maize will play in Friday’s other semifinal after beating Shawnee Mission East 8-2.
“Anybody who has ever doubted our team knows now that we are never going to die,” Northwest coach Chris Lambert said. “It doesn’t matter how big of a lead the other team has.”
Through six innings, Washburn Rural starting pitcher Blake Peterson held Northwest to one hit and four other baserunners.
While the Grizzlies did hit a few balls hard, the Junior Blues’ defense prevented timely hits.
“In the City League we only have a couple of pitchers that can throw the ball as hard as Peterson did today,” Caleb Anguiano said. “We learned to adjust and drive the ball.”
What made the task even more daunting was Northwest sent the bottom of the order against Peterson.
The six through nine hitters were a combined 0 for 5 with a walk their first two times through.
“We have no chance if we don’t get our six and seven hitters on base and I told them that,” Lambert said. “By doing that, we put the bad thoughts into the other team and gets them thinking.”
Brendan Johnson led off with a walk and Landon Whitemore was hit by a pitch. They advanced on a double steal.
Anguiano plated both on a single and Northwest later took the lead with a three-run triple from Jared Gates.
“That could have been our last game and we didn’t want that to happen,” Gates said. “We just needed hits to fall and they finally started falling.”
Maize 8, SM East 2 — Maize’s scouting report said Shawnee Mission East starting pitcher Joey Wentz had a powerful, but inconsistent fastball and a commanding curveball.
All the Eagles needed to do was to be patient, raise his pitch count and the time to pounce on Wentz would come.
Through four innings, Maize managed one hit and three other baserunners against Wentz.
But the scouting report was correct, as the Eagles reached base four times in Wentz’s final third of an inning.
Maize scored four times in the fifth and carried its offense over to the sixth, scoring four more runs and defeated Shawnee Mission East.
It’s Maize’s first semifinal appearance since its championship in 2011. The Eagles will play top-seeded Manhattan at 1:30 p.m. Friday.
“Wentz was good early, but our guys settled down and made him throw a lot of pitches,” Maize coach Rocky Helm said. “We try to put pressure on people by being patient. Good things happen when we’re patient.”
The offensive output from Maize in the fifth and sixth wasn’t exactly powerful.
Leadoff hitter Colton Helm walked to open the fifth, then was sacrificed over by Seth Troll, and advanced to third on a poor throw by Wentz.
The next three batters reached on two fielder’s choices and a walk. But three runs scored with help from another Lancer error.
“We started small-balling in the fifth and did what we needed to do to win,” Corrigan Bartlett said. “Patience was what won us the game. We raised his pitch count and were taking whatever he gave us.”
Maize recorded five hits in the sixth, getting RBI singles from Troll and James Fisher and a game-controlling two-run single from Bartlett.
Fisher finished 2 for 4 with two RBIs and Bartlett went 2 for 2 with a walk and two RBIs.
“When facing a pitcher like Wentz, less is more,” Fisher said. “We didn’t need to do anything special.”
Northwest 7, Wash. Rural 5
|W. NW||000||000||7||—||7 4 1|
|Rural||200||200||1||—||5 10 1|
W – Anguiano. L – Peterson.
Maize 8, SM East 2
|Maize||000||044||0||—||8 9 0|
|SM East||100||010||0||—||2 6 3|
W – Johnson. L – Wentz.