When the Rose Hill baseball team dropped its fifth consecutive game in early April, there was no panic within the team.
The Rockets had seen this show before.
Injuries and inconsistency derailed Rose Hill throughout the early parts of last season, but over its closing 12 games it went 8-4 and made the state tournament.
The similarities between last season and this season are striking as the Rockets won 12 of their last 14 games this year to again qualify for the Class 4A-Division I tournament. Rose Hill meets Fort Scott in a Thursday quarterfinal.
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“There weren’t any inner issues with the team or things like that,” Rose Hill coach Scott Carr said. “We remained positive and didn’t panic.”
Injuries were more to blame than anything else throughout the early portion of the season as two starters – Griffin McBride and Kyle Boal – had labrum problems.
It was more key for McBride, who is the Rockets’ top pitcher. He is 4-0 with a 1.35 ERA.
But Boal thinks last year’s struggles and a year of experience were pivotal in Rose Hill turning its season around.
“I think it might have been something we needed,” Boal said. “When times got tough, we needed to stay positive. We knew we had the time.”
The difference between the Rose Hill team that finished the season compared to the one that started it is timely hitting.
Too often, the Rockets failed to register quality at-bats. They managed 15 runs during their five-game losing streak.
“We took a lot of batting practice during those few weeks,” Dylan Sinclair said. “We spent all of our time in the batting cages.”
McBride said there is no reason to think the timely hitting won’t continue. That’s why he thinks the pitching staff will be key in Rose Hill winning at state again, where the Rockets took third a year ago.
Their staff allowed 54 runs in 137 1/3 innings.
“It all starts with the pitchers throwing strikes,” McBride said. “Our hitting is there right now, so if we can pitch and then play good defense, then I think we can win.”
AREA TEAMS IN STATE BASEBALL TOURNAMENTS
Campus (15-7) hit .282 and drove in 101 runs this season. The Colts have outscored opponents 116-33.
Derby (18-4) likes to utilize the running game, stealing 72 bases. While the Panthers have scored 140 runs, no player has an RBI total above 17.
Sophomore Brady Dingman is Northwest’s top offensive performer, hitting .432 and driving in 23 runs. Seniors Jordan Dingman and Wil Clark both hit two home runs for the Grizzlies (17-5).
Carroll (16-3) is led by the starting pitching duo of McCae Allen and P.J. Henning. Allen is 4-0 with a 1.42 ERA, while Henning is 4-1 with a 2.16 ERA.
Maize South (17-5) has two quality starting pitchers in Nate McBroom and Bryce Sell. McBroom has pitched 35 2/3 innings, going 6-1 with a 2.36 ERA. Sell has thrown 33 innings and is 2-1 with a 2.12 ERA.
This is the Newton’s first state tournament appearance since 2008. The Railers (15-5) scored two runs in the seventh inning of regionals to defeat Salina Central.
Senior Michael Albright is the top offensive performer for Augusta (16-6). He hit .379, with 11 extra-base hits and 28 RBIs.
McPherson’s pitching staff has been stellar all season, finishing with a 2.82 ERA in 107 2/3 innings. The Bullpups (15-7) lost four games by one run and two of those came in extra innings.
Clearwater (10-10) is led by pitcher Bryson Rushing, who went 5-1 with a 2.33 ERA in 37 2/3 innings and struck out 34 while walking nine. The Indians have won 7 of 8 heading into the tournament.
Independent (21-2) is led by a potent offense, which features seven players with 16 RBIs or more. They have a batting average of .374 and an on-base percentage of .483.
Sedgwick (15-4) senior Brylie Ware leads the offense with a .674 average, nine home runs and 30 RBI. Ware hit a walk-off grand slam in the sub-state semifinal victory over Halstead.
Ryan Snow of Inman (13-10) has driven in 21 runs while hitting .373 and getting on base at a .525 clip. Wyatt Regher is 4-3 with a 1.75 ERA. Regher also has four saves.
The only losses on the Medicine Lodge (17-4) schedule came to Independent and Bluestem – which had a combined seven losses.
Oxford (11-11) doesn’t have a great batting average (.250), but the Wildcats wreak havoc on the basepaths, stealing 72 bases. They have outscored opponents 121-120.