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KCKCC baseballFrom the dugout and the bullpen, the rush was on to celebrate KCKCC’s 3-1 win over Butler County Monday that earned the Blue Devils a berth in the regional playoffs against Seward County in Wichita Friday at 1 p.m. (KCKCC photo by Alan Hoskins)
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Austin UnreinAustin Unrein
Kansas City Kansas Community College wasted one strong pitching performance Monday but not a second.
In a game right out of a Hollywood script, freshman Austin Unrein pitched the Blue Devils to a 3-1 win over Butler County and into the Region VI playoffs at Wichita Friday. The win came on the heels of a 7-5, 10-inning loss and will send the Blue Devils (32-21) into the opening round of the 8-team regional against Jayhawk West champion Seward County, which finished 21-11 in league play and 31-26 overall. Game time is 1 p.m. at Lawrence Dumont Stadium.
A freshman from Hays, Unrein had pitched only 23 innings this season while compiling a 2-2 record and a 6.26 ERA before allowing no earned runs and scattering eight hits in going the 9-inning route, his first ever.
“That was as gutsy a pitching performance as we’ve probably ever had,” said coach Steve Burleson, who generally is conservative with post-game comments. “We had worked mostly with Austin on the middle infield and not that much on the mound, So what he gave us was far above and beyond what we could have expected.”
Unrein, who walked two and struck out eight, said he still felt strong despite never having pitched nine innings. “I think my adrenalin was pretty high,” said Unrein, who credited pitch location for his success. “I was able to get all three pitches (fast ball, slider and change-up) over on both sides of the plate.”
The only run off Unrein came in the second inning when the Grizzlies loaded the bases on a hit batsman and two singles with two out and scored on an infield error.
It stayed 1-0 until the fourth when the Blue Devils tied it on a double by Pancho Amaya and a triple by Jacob Woods and then won it in the sixth with a pair of runs. Amaya led off with a single and Garrett McKinzie was hit by a pitch and both moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Woods. Caleb Waddell put the Blue Devils in front with a ringing double and although the Grizzlies were able to cut down McKinzie at the plate, Trent Sullivan made it 3-1 with a run-scoring single.
Unrein took it from there, pitching around an error and a single in the seventh; setting down the Grizzlies in order in the eighth and then getting a ground ball double play sandwiched between two singles in the ninth.
Butler had taken advantage of wildness and a faulty Blue Devil defense to rally for a 7-5 10-inning win to get the series even in Monday’s opener. Trailing 5-3 entering the ninth, the Grizzlies loaded the bases on two hit batsmen sandwiched around a single. One run scored on a ground ball and the tying run crossed when the Blue Devils just missed a game-ending double play. Back-to-back infield errors opened the doors for the Grizzlies in the 10th as they won it on singles by Trever Ezell and Gus Strunk.
“We got what we deserved,” said Burleson. “Playing a 9-inning game is totally different because a lot of goofy things can happen in the eighth and ninth innings. We hit some people, gave up some walks and didn’t make the plays and there was no quit in Butler.”
The Blue Devils wasted a standout pitching effort by Derrick Winter, who allowed only one run and four hits and led 4-1 before giving up single and double with one out in the eighth. One of those runs scored on a Jacob Woods’ wild pitch, the second crossed on a Blue Devil error.
KCKCC rebuilt its lead to 5-3 in the bottom of the eighth as Sullivan singled with one out, stole second and scored on Lucas Norton’s single. The Blue Devils had taken a 2-0 lead in the fourth on a single by McKinzie, walk and RBI singles by Waddell and Sullivan. Butler cut the deficit to 2-1 with an unearned run in the sixth but the Blue Devils got that run back in the bottom of the inning on singles by Woods and Norton and Landon Teal’s squeeze bunt and then added another in the seventh on a single by McKinzie and a triple by Amaya.
Zac Butler (10-1) pitched KCKCC to an 8-3 win on Sunday, allowing only one run and six hits over the first eight innings and coming within one out of his ninth complete game. First baseman Dean Long and McKinzie swung the big bats in a 9-hit KCKCC attack. Long drove in two runs with two doubles, a single and sacrifice fly while McKinzie drove in three with a two-run home run and a double.
The Blue Devils took advantage of wildness by Butler starter Brad Day, who walked in two runs in the first inning after loading the bases on a single by Long, a hit batsman and a walk.. KCKCC made it 3-0 in the second on back-to-back doubles by Long and McKinzie and 4-0 in the fourth on a walk, Andrew Kreiling’s single and Long’s sacrifice fly. KCKCC’s final three runs came in the eighth on a single by Teal, a sacrifice by Lucas North, an RBI double by Long and McKinzie’s two-run homer down the line in left. It was his third of the season.