DERBY – Winning a Class 6A baseball regional on a game-ending wild pitch was exciting for Derby on Thursday night, yet it was bittersweet to coach Todd Olmstead.
“I had 13 seniors last year and brought in 11 this year,” Olmstead said. “Most of them didn’t feel the pain of losing last year, but we talked about it from Day 1. I told them we are not ending out season like last time.”
That was a 7-6 regional-final loss to Northwest when Derby threw a wild pitch that allowed the winning run to score.
On Thursday, Derby found itself in a 1-1 tie, but two Panthers were hit by pitches with nobody out in the bottom of the seventh. Maize replaced pitcher Jared Luebbe with Jake Doeflinger. The baserunners moved up on stolen bases, then Justin Ash scored from third on a wild pitch.
“When I saw the ball bounce off the catcher, I had already decided to take off,” Ash said. “In my head I was thinking, ‘I can win this for the seniors if I get there,’ and I made it.”
Much of the game was centered on the matchup between two Division I signees – Derby center fielder Curtis Whitten (Saint Louis) and Maize pitcher Connor Lungwitz (Wichita State). Whitten and Lungwitz grew up playing baseball together. In the fourth inning Whitten was on the better end of the matchup when he homered down the left-field line.
“Connor and I grew up playing together and I knew what were up against heading into the game,” Whitten said. “We faced the best pitcher in the area. He’s a great, great pitcher. But we pulled it out. Anytime I step up to the plate against Connor it’s going to be a competitive ballgame. I’ve been in a slump lately but the hit felt great; when I hit it I knew it was going out.”
Maize quickly recovered the next inning with an RBI double by Clayton Hicks. Derby pitcher Cody Bush prevented further damage in the seventh when Maize had the bases loaded and one out. Bush responded by striking out the next two batters.
“I came in the game knowing I was going against one of the best pitchers,” Bush said. “I knew what I had to do — I wanted to show how good I am, too — and I got it done. “
Derby 2, Maize 1
|Maize||000||010||0||–||1 4 0|
|Derby||000||100||1||–||2 4 3|
W – Bush. L – Luebbe.
Derby 9, Southeast 0
|Southeast||000||000||0||–||0 1 3|
|Derby||000||270||x||–||9 8 1|
W – Watson. L – Johnson.