Last season, SM East’s hopes of a trip to state ended with a 5-2 loss in the regional final. This season, the Lancers turned the tables.
Jerrod Ryherd on Joey Wentz’s performance
SM East earned a trip to Hoglund Stadium on the University of Kansas campus and a place in the state tournament bracket with a 7-3 win over the Falcons Wednesday, fulfilling a goal the team had set for itself before the season.
“I’m so proud of these guys — they’ve worked so hard for this,” said Lancers coach Jerrod Ryherd. “We knew at the beginning of the season we were going to have a good team, and that was our goal: to get to Hoglund.”
SM East made it into the regional final Wednesday night by beating SM West in the regional opening round Wednesday afternoon. Starting pitcher Max Sanborn held the Vikings to three runs, while sophomore Joey Wentz drove in three of the Lancers’ eight in the win.
But it was Wentz’s pitching in the nightcap that carried the team to its first state berth since 2011. He pitched six scoreless innings, striking out nine. In the sixth inning, Wentz got into a bit of a jam after walking the first batter he faced and then giving up a single, putting runners on first and third. He subsequently struck out the next two batters, and then got the following batter to hit a grounder to Charley White, ending the inning.
“He was just nails,” Ryherd said of Wentz. “He came out on fire. His fastball was heavy tonight and his curveball was working from the get go.”
Wentz helped himself out by providing the Lancers with some offense as well, going two for four at the plate including a home run. He drove in two of the Lancers’ seven runs. Sanborn drove in another two.
SM East is the four seed in the eight-team state playoff bracket, and will face the fifth-seeded Maize squad in the first round game in Lawrence next Thursday. Game times have not been released. Manhattan, 19-2, is the top seed in this year’s tournament, with Washburn Rural, 19-3, seeded second and Blue Valley West, 18-4, seeded third.