Two down, two to go in the countdown. Today we continue with the Shawnee Mission East baseball team, which won their first state title since 1995.
After falling to SM Northwest in the semifinals in 2015, the Lancers were not only hungry to make it back to state, but to not be disappointed in 2016.
Led by pitcher Joey Wentz, who we discussed yesterday, the Lancers went 21-4 on the year as they defeated Sunflower League foe Free State 4-3 in nine innings in the championship game.
The Lancers opened the season 10-0 before losing four of their next seven games. The first loss came against Olathe South 14-13. Two games later they fell to state border rival Rockhurst and then the next day to Lawrence. The final loss of the season came against Blue Valley Southwest and then SM East won their final eight games of the year.
They averaged 6.7 runs per contest, while only yielding 2.1.
SM East had five seniors on the team, including outfielder Matt Erdner, infielder Spencer Mustoe, utility man Max Montgomery and catcher Henry Churchill.
Wentz was drafted by the Braves, Erdner is playing golf at College of Charleston, Montgomery and Churchill are studying at Kansas.
But what about the rest of the team?
The 2017 iteration of the Lancers will be very similar to 2016 as it returns 11 now-seniors, two juniors and a sophomore.
The core of Trevor Thompson, Jake Randa, Clayton Phillips, Luke Anderson and Zeb Vermillion have the rest of the state going, ‘Oh, shoot,’ while the Lancers are thinking repeat.
The lone freshman last year — outfielder Phillip Cole — played on the C team, but was used in varsity games as a pinch runner. Cole scored the game-winning run in the state championship game.
“We finally got there,” coach Jerrod Ryherd said after the game. “It was a goal seven years in the making.”
We wrap up the year and the countdown tomorrow. Make sure you come back, you don’t want to miss No. 1.