Maize and Bishop Carroll improved their outlook for Class 5A regional seeding, as the two Wichita powers took turns beating Liberal in a doubleheader played at Maize on Wednesday.
Carroll threw its ace, Jacob Ensz, to defeat Liberal 4-1, then Maize followed with its ace, John Short, as the Eagles won 10-0 in five innings. In less than 24 hours, Liberal (9-4) has gone from the undefeated top seed to four straight losses and plummeting to the third seed. All three teams are in the same regional.
Meanwhile, Carroll (15-1) and Maize (14-3) now control their fate in securing the top two seeds in the regionals, which would bring home-field advantage for a potential regional championship game.
“This was a big win for us,” Maize coach Rocky Helm said. “We try to schedule as tough as we can, so it was great to get Liberal to come out and play. Our goal is to get better every game and hopefully be able to host in regionals and see what we can do there.”
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After a scoreless first inning, Maize jumped on Liberal starter Tucker Deaton in the second inning of the second game. The Eagles batted around their lineup, as Jake Doerflinger, Jakob Shields, Mason Hartman, and Chandler Kelley all delivered RBIs in a 6-run inning.
Doerflinger, Will Cocking, Hartman, and Kelley added RBIs in the third inning to give Maize a 10-0 lead. Hartman finished 3 for 3 with 2 RBIs, while Kelley and Cannon Lynch each added a pair of hits and Doerflinger and Shields both drove in two runs.
“I was really impressed with how we handled the bats tonight,” Helm said. “We had some bunts and some nice hit-and-runs, so we got guys in motion and were able to excute. I want to see more of that from us in the future.”
Short delivered another gem, throwing four scoreless innings and allowing just three baserunners with four strikeouts in 47 pitches.
“I like how he controlled everything up there,” Helm said. “He never really got behind in counts and I don’t think he ever had a 3-ball count. He got his pitches where they needed to be and he was really good for us.”
Hits were hard to come by for Liberal on the day, as it could only manage four in seven innings off Ensz — with three coming in the first inning when Liberal took a 1-0 lead.
After that rocky opening inning, Ensz would allow only two more baserunners in the final six innings. He threw a complete game in 77 pitches and finished with seven strikeouts.
“After that first inning, I just had to keep the ball down and keep them off-balanced,” Ensz said. “We started working more with the off-speed stuff a little earlier in the count and trying to saw them off that way.”
Carroll tied the score in the second inning on a passed ball that allowed A.J. Peters to score, then took the lead on another Liberal mistake in the third inning. Justin Tangney and Brayden Whitchurch followed with RBI doubles in the fourth inning to provide the final scoreline.
Carroll finished with nine runners left on base.
“We scuffled there a little bit and we left quite a few guys on today,” Ebright said. “We had some opportunities with guys on third with less than two outs and we didn’t get the job done, so that’s something we’ve got to get better at against quality teams.”