The cavalry was coming.
After building a towering nine-run lead over Topeka-Seaman (9-2) in game two of their road double-header, the Blue Jays were starting to feel some pressure.
The second-ranked team in class 5A had already trounced Junction City (8-4) in game one, run-ruling JCHS 12-1 in five innings and after going catatonic for more than half of game two, the Vikings were starting to find their footing.
Starting pitcher Jorden Keel had cruised his way through six innings but six-straight Seaman batters found their way on base to start the bottom of the seventh and Keel was getting dangerously close to his 105 pitch count. The Blue Jays needed the game to end immediately.
“I was just trying to throw strikes and give my defense something to work with,” Keel said.
Luckily for Keel, who ended the day with four runs allowed on 15 hits and a walk, that’s exactly what he did.
On the next batter, the Blue Jays caught Seaman runners attempting to steal, ending the game before any more damage could be done.
“(Keel) was tremendous,” head coach Carl Laughlin said. “We came out and got a couple runs in the first inning and that made him feel good and comfortable. He got into a couple jams but he just trusted his defense.”
Offensively, the fire power came early for the Blue Jays as the first six batters got on base and scored five runs to start off the day and then added two more runs in fourth and fifth innings.
“I was really happy with our sticks,” Laughlin said. “We had a plan in the batter’s box and we really competed and we were on target most of the time. We hit a lot of balls up the middle and that’s exactly what we practice every day.”
Leading the way for the Blue Jays was senior Russell Wilkey who went 4-5 with four hits and a RBI. Wilkey also had a stolen base and was key defensively at shortstop including helping secure the final two outs of the game.
“All of our kids have been around Russell most of his life and they just look up to him,” Laughlin said. “He’s just that athlete. It doesn’t matter if we had a water polo team, he’d probably be the star of it even if he didn’t know how to swim because he competes. He doesn’t like to lose. He’s just one of those kids.”
Jacob Varnado had three hits and two RBIs and Andrew Khoury, Jonathan Phillips and Nate Rumbuagh each had two hits.
IN THE FIRST game of the series, the Blue Jays found themselves playing the exact opposite role as they did in the second game.
Seaman rolled out to a quick 5-0 lead after an inning and then, after Junction City scored a run in the top of the third to get within four, the Vikings poured on seven more runs which two innings later would result in a run-rule.
“This team can be pretty fickle,” Laughlin said. “If things are going well, then boy, they’re going to run you over. But if we have some struggles, it’s hard to get out of the funk.”
Junction City managed just three hits in game one and only one walk. Wilkey, starting pitcher Trevor Laughlin and Bodie Tillman each had a hit and Laughlin got saddled with the loss after allowing 11 runs on seven hits and two walks with two strikeouts in two and two-thirds innings.
Logan Lindsley pitched the final inning and a third in relief, allowing a run on three hits and a walk.
Junction City returns home Friday evening for a doubleheader versus a Topeka-Hayden team that’s had some ups and downs
“They have about the record that we do,” Laughlin said. “The good things about it is we’ll have all of our pitching back and if the schedule doesn’t change for the rest of the year, it will stay that way. That will be extremely beneficial as we head into the tough portion of our schedule.”