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Friday, Apr. 27, 2012

Olathe South baseball on a roll

todpalmer@theolathenews.com

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Dropping to 5-3 overall for the season, Olathe South’s baseball team could have hung its head after back-to-back shutout losses two days apart in early April.

Instead, the Falcons met the challenge head on and haven’t loss since, rattling off seven straight wins entering Friday.

During the seven-game win streak, South has pushed 58 runs across the plate and scored at least 10 times in four different games.

That fact is made even more impressive by the fact those wins have come against some top-notch competition.

After squeaking past SM North 4-3 on April 10, the Falcons batted SM South 10-3 two days later.

Squaring off with rival Olathe East on April 13, South slugged its way to a 13-10 win before taking down SM East 6-1 in a showdown for the top spot in the Sunflower League.

Two Missouri foes would fall next as the Falcons crushed Rockhurst 13-3 and edged Ozark 2-1 during the River City Baseball Festival in Lawrence.

Returning to league play, the Falcons whipped Lawrence Free State 10-4, improving to 12-3 overall and 7-1 in Sunflower League games with the win.

“Our seniors have stepped up big time,” South coach Josh Perkins said. “We only returned a handful of guys with varsity experience – Connor Brady, who pitched about 15 innings for us last year, along with Brett Nickle and Miles Orscheln.”

The Falcons have relied heavily on seniors who had spent their careers to this point in the junior varsity ranks, but who have shined when given the chance against top competition.

“We have six seniors who mostly played JV, but every one of them has stepped in and done a great job,” Perkins said.

With teams consistently pitching around Nickle and Orscheln, the burden for carrying the offense has fallen on the shoulders of seniors Jeremy Smith and Chase Hanson along with junior Matt Elliott among others.

Each has responded with Smith batting .409 with 13 RBIs and Hanson hitting .375 with 10 RBIs through the River City games. Elliott leads South with a .460 average and seven stolen bases.

Led by Brady, who is 5-0 with a 1.69 ERA, the pitching staff has been surprisingly potent.

Evan Lanning has emerged as the much-needed No. 2 starter, going 3-1 with a 2.82 ERA as the Falcons have flourished.

Taking over the closer role, senior Greg Fry has been dominant — not because he has great stuff, but he is hugely competitive and refuses to give in.

Colton Kenner and Brennan Rollin have emerged as the bridge guys between the starters and Fry.

“I know they can get us through a regional,” Perkins said. “But we’re missing that third starter. At a regional, we can get to Greg in both games, but the third game in the state format is where we’d be searching for a third starter.”

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