High School Sports

Crusaders build around pitching staff

Kapaun Mount Carmel doesn't have a (pitching) ace up its sleeve. And the Crusaders haven't needed one in the second half of the season.

Kapaun second-year coach Steve Lienhard said he has a strong rotation of four stable pitchers and an overpowering closer in Michael Reynolds. And that gives his team a legitimate shot of making it through its regional and getting to the Class 5A tournament.

"I've got guys that get me four or five innings and keep us in the game," Lienhard said. "If (Reynolds) can come in the sixth or seventh and close the game then it is confidence booster for us. We haven't had that dominant guy in the past."

Reynolds was a starter for the Crusaders last season, but struggled earlier this season with stamina because of conditioning. He was used sparingly and eventually built enough endurance to be used as a closer.

This turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Kapaun. Reynolds has been able to make more appearances in more games, and his 88-to-91 mile per hour fastball and slider have kept batters off balance. His development, plus the emergence of Taylor Floyd as a starter has helped Kapaun get on a roll late in the season.

"We lost five in a row during the middle of the season," Lienhard said. "But what's weird about it is during those five losses I could tell that we were getting better.... We've got enough pitching to get us places."

Panthers win under pressure _ Wichita Independent coach Jaimie Fowler issued a challenge to his team four games ago. In order to get premium seeding as the Panthers host a regional at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium, they needed to win out.

His young group of players responded, sweeping Sedgwick and Douglass to earn the No. 2 seed. Independent will play Belle Plaine at 4:30 Wednesday. Medicine Lodge, the No. 1 seed will play the winner of Collegiate and Halstead on Wednesday.

"This team is a lot different than teams I had in the past we started out very young, but every day we got a little better," Fowler said. "I'd say we are playing our best ball right now going into the regional. We had to win four straight to get the two seed, and we got it done. I'm pretty optimistic going into it."

Fowler stressed how important getting a high seed was, not for motivational purposes but to prepare them for what he was ready to put them through.

"We wanted it and played hard to go get it," Fowler said. "We treated the last four games like postseason games. That was the motto there. We just had to treat it like they were tests, and if we burnt out our whole pitching staff just to get there we would and just survive the next game."