Varsity Kansas

3A baseball: Independent wins opener

When the sinking feeling of nervousness returns to Independent senior Scott Spiker, bad things usually follow.

That feeling formed in the pit of Spiker’s stomach before Thursday’s baseball game against Wellsville in the first round of the Class 3A tournament. Spiker was feeling the pressure of ensuring that the Panthers, the No. 1 seed with 22 wins, avoided elimination in the first round for the third straight season.

Then Independent’s offense came through with a run in the first inning.

Spiker’s fears were alleviated and a clear head produced nine strikeouts and a complete game in a 6-3 victory that sent the Panthers to Friday’s semifinals against Pittsburg Colgan.

“I’ve really worked hard on trying to calm my nerves and not think about stuff,” Spiker said. “I just wanted to come in and throw strikes and do what I do and get a little rhythm going.”

When Spiker finds his rhythm, the Panthers’ offense feasts on it.

Spiker had little problem with Wellsville’s hitters in the first four innings, setting a tempo that Independent’s hitters continued at the plate.

“When he picks up the tempo of the game and gets outs quick, it really gets us fired up and gets us going,” Independent sophomore Tanner Cairns said. “It probably helps us hit the ball better, too.”

After losing the first game at state the last two seasons, Independent coach Jamie Fowler vowed to not let the Panthers go home without being aggressive.

In the first inning, Fowler rolled the dice and called for a drag bunt after Ben Strickfaden reached base to start the game. The play resulted in an overthrow by Wellsville that scored Strickfaden and gave Independent the 1-0 lead.

“We know how tough it is to make those plays early in the game when the crowd is involved,” Fowler said. “We wanted to put the other team in situations where they were uncomfortable and see if they can make the plays.”

Two more errors committed by Wellsville led directly to runs by Independent, as it added another tally in the second inning and then a two-out rally in the third produced three runs for a 5-0 lead.

The Panthers finished the game with only one extra-base hit, but crucial hits were produced by Cairns and senior Garret Hupman.

“We were on a mission today to finally get that win in the first round,” Hupman said. “We’re at our best when we play our style of fast-paced baseball and that’s what we did today. Hopefully we can keep the momentum going.”

That was enough for Spiker, who nearly made things interesting late.

But he found a way to strand seven Wellsville baserunners in the final three innings to perserve the victory.

“My slider was really working well for me today,” Spiker said. “I had that pitch right where I wanted it and it got me out a lot of those jams. It was a good pitch to strike somebody out on today.”

Colgan tops Lyons — Lyons, which entered as the higher seed, lost the momentum early and never got it back in a 15-1 loss to Pittsburg Colgan.

Colgan scored three runs in the first inning, tacked on two more in the second inning and led 7-0 after the fourth inning.

Independent 6, Wellsville 3

Wellsville 000 010 2 3 7 3
Independent 113 001 x 6 9 1

W — Spiker. L — Kearney.

P. Colgan 15, Lyons 1

P. Colgan 320 211 6 15 13 1
Lyons 000 010 0 1 4 2

W — Cedeno. L — Kirkhart.

Winner X, Loser Y

Visitor xxx xxx xxx x xx x
Home xxx xxx xxx x xx x

W — xxx. L — xxx. S — xxx. HR — xxx.

Winner X, Loser Y

Visitor xxx xxx xxx x xx x
Home xxx xxx xxx x xx x

W — xxx. L — xxx. S — xxx. HR — xxx.

Related stories from Wichita Eagle