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Five Thoughts on Regional Baseball


By Brad Hallier


HUTCHINSON, Kan. – Ah, Kansas in May. The weather can be glorious or rude. And based on the forecast for early this upcoming week, it could be a rude week.

Monday, when Kansas State High School Activities Association schools start baseball regionals, there is a good chance of rain. Which means postponements could be on the way. And if you don’t have turf, it could be for a longer week if a natural-surface field sustains a lot of rain.

Here are five thoughts on regional baseball.

Hey, this is a media organization, so we are allowed to look forward, so let’s talk Buhler-McPherson

Tuesday, McPherson will welcome three teams to the home of the reigning Class 4A state champion. One is an underrated El Dorado team that will take on McPherson. An unheralded Ulysses will play Buhler.

What does this mean? If the fourth-seeded Bullpups beat El Dorado and fifth-seeded Buhler wins, the two rivals will square off for the regional title.

McPherson has two high-caliber starters, so coach Heath Gerstner doesn’t have much to worry about who will start what game. But does Buhler coach John Neill start his junior son Jeffrey Neill against Ulysses? Or roll the dice and have someone else pitch against Ulysses? It’s the age-old question for baseball coaches in a single-elimination tournament. Start your ace right away? Or save him and hope to survive the first game? There are enough examples through the years of both ways working out.

Hutchinson does well to nudge way into postseason

On one hand, finishing 16th in an 18-team regional shouldn’t be much cause for celebration. But Hutchinson was looking at finishing outside the top 16 and not qualifying for the Class 5A West Regional.

The Salthawks won three of their last five games, including wins over Maize and Derby, and earned the last playoff spot. First-year coach Mace Krol deserves praise for getting his team to buy in still after an 0-12 start. The postseason run may not last long, as the Salthawks drew top-seed and 19-1 Bishop Carroll, but the re-building Salthawk baseball has started.

Haven did in again by geography

Just like in basketball season, Haven is punished thanks to geography. The makeup of the baseball regional is different than basketball, but it’s going to be just as tough.

The Wildcats had a great season under first-year coach Noah Krol, as they are 16-4 and the second seed in the Class 3A Chaparral regional. Survive the first round against a decent Halstead team, and 14-4 Wichita Collegiate waits after that. And should Haven get by Collegiate, 18-2 Wichita Trinity likely looms in the championship game.

So, if we tally up the record from those top three teams, that’s a 48-10 record.

Little River welcomes talented field to Hutchinson

An increasing trend in smaller-classification baseball is to find a bigger stadium to host postseason. Little River will travel about 45 minutes south to host a good Class 2-1A regional. Little River is the top seed at 17-1 and has a decent path to Wednesday’s championship.

But waiting for Little River could be No. 2 seed Salina Sacred Heart, which is 15-3. Opposing teams usually shudder at playing a sub-.500 Sacred Heart team. This one has the looks of a team that could win a state championship. It could be a great regional championship game.

Sedgwick started late-season run by playing many teams in regional

Sedgwick is the top seed at this week’s 2-1A regional, and the Cardinals have won 12 in a row. Who did they beat in that 12-game run? Three teams at the Moundridge regional that they’ll be in.

Sedgwick has a proud baseball history, and this year’s team is peaking at the right time.