When Kansas City Kansas Community College brought out all its sophomores and their parents Sunday, the line stretched almost from dugout to dugout.
That’s because the majority of players on the Blue Devil squad that will enter regional tournament play at Wichita Friday come from the Greater Kansas City area. Seven of the nine starters and three members of the pitching staff are graduates of high schools in the Kansas and Missouri metro area.
Headed by recruiting coordinator Damian Stambersky, Kansas recruits include third baseman Pancho Amaya from Harmon, rightfielder Trent Sullivan from Blue Valley and injured outfielder Mitch Glessner from Blue Valley Northwest.
The biggest contributors are Blue Springs and Raymore-Peculiar, Mo. Pitching ace Zac Butler, second baseman/pitcher Jacob Woods and backup catcher Nick Gulotta are all from Blue Springs while catcher Garrett McKinzie, leftfielder Andrew Kreiling and pitchers Cole Frakes and Dylan Donley (injured) played at Raymore-Peculiar. Centerfielder Lucas Norton and pitcher Matt Dye both played at Liberty and shortstop Landon Teal at Harrisonville.
Only first baseman Dean Long of Lebanon, Mo., and designated hitter Caleb Waddell of Killen, Ala., are non-area contributors among the position starters along with pitchers Austin Unrein of Hays, Tyler Lankford of Derby, Cisco Medina of Boulder, Colo.; and Derrick Winter and Eli Egger, both of Waukee, Iowa.
“In the past, a lot of our recruits came from my working at various camps but with the new field as a recruiting tool, I think you’ll be seeing more and more recruits coming to us,” said coach Steve Burleson.
If the first round of the Region VI playoffs are any indicator, the Blue Devils will be well-armed going into Friday’s 1 p.m. opener against Jayhawk West champion Seward County at Wichita’s Lawrence Dumont Stadium. Seward defeated Independence 12-4 and 1-0 in its first round playoff.
Butler (10-1) allowed only one run over eight innings and came within one out of his ninth complete of the season in an 8-3 win over Butler County in the opener; Derrick Winter (5-2) gave up just one run in seven innings and led 4-1 in the eighth before the bullpen collapsed in a 10-inning 7-5 loss in the middle game; and Unrein (3-2) allowed no earned runs in a complete game 3-1 win in the title game.
Butler, who has allowed only 16 earned runs in 75 innings for a 1.90 earned run average, will get the start in the opener against Seward, which won the West with a 21-11 record and is 26-21 overall. With the regional a double elimination competition, the opening game is extremely pivotal. “Falling into the loser’s bracket makes it twice as difficult,” said Burleson. “We’ve done that before but it makes it very hard because you have to win at least four straight games.”
Burleson said Winter, Unrein and Egger (3-2) will follow Butler in the rotation with Jacob Woods (2-2) and Cisco Medina 2-2) the leaders in relief.
“The key for us to be successful is to make good pitches and make plays,” Burleson said. “We can’t give up walks, hit batters or make errors to put men on base.”
The Blue Devil starting lineup boasts five .300 hitters including the first four. Kreiling (.331) will lead off followed by Long (.365), McKinzie (.359), Amaya (.314), Woods (2.92), Waddell (.338), Sullivan (.272), Norton (.233) and Teal (.246). The top five are also the leading run producers. Long leads in runs-batted-in with 38 followed by Kreiling (34), McKinzie (32), Amaya (27) and Woods (23) while Kreiling leads in home runs with four with McKinzie, Amaya and Woods with three each.
Five of the eight regional finalists are from the Jayhawk East. Other first round games Friday will send Fort Scott (40-15) against Neosho County (31-24) at 10 a.m.; Coffeyville (29-23) vs. Garden City (28-5) at 4 p.m.; and Cowley County (44-9) against Colby (39-18) at 7 p.m.