Before the season started, Josh Perkins wasn’t sure the Olathe South baseball team could be in this position.
With only three returning starters, the Falcons didn’t have much varsity experience and how the group would handle the transition remained uncertain.
“At the beginning of the year, I really didn’t know how good we were going to be,” Perkins said. “When you’ve only got three guys coming back, I just couldn’t be real sure. But I’m happy for my kids.”
Perkins is elated, in fact, after South edged Shawnee Mission South and SM North during regional play Wednesday at the Olathe District Activity Center and gained a berth in the Kansas 6A state tournament, which begins Friday at Hoglund Ballpark in Lawrence.
One of the Falcons’ few returning starters, slugger Brett Nickle, got the 8-4 win against SM South started with a two-run, first-inning double.
A couple of Raiders errors let two more runs in an inning later, while an error and a wild pitch made it 6-0 in the third inning.
South’s ace, Connor Brady, ran into trouble in the fifth inning and SM South pulled back four runs, but the Falcons answered with a Luke Gardner sacrifice fly and another run off a wild pitch in the bottom of the inning.
Closer Greg Fry worked around a two-out walk in the seventh inning to wrap up 2 2/3 shutout inning with three strikeouts in relief.
Against SM North, which upset SM East in the other regional semifinal, South grabbed the lead in the first inning once again as Adam Cheshier delivered an RBI double and both Miles Orscheln and Nickle provided RBI groundouts.
SM North scored twice in the second inning and the game remained 3-2 until the fourth when Matt Elliott coaxed a bases-loaded walk.
Isaiah Campbell picked up the win with 4 1/3 shutout inning in relief and Fry added another save.
“There’s not one kid on the roster who was there (at state) three years, so we’ve got all new guys but they are excited,” Perkins said. “There are so many things that go into a state tournament and it’s only my second shot at it, so I’m just as giddy as the players are.”
The Falcons, 18-4, drew the No. 3 seed and open with Wichita Heights, 14-8, at 6:30 p.m. Friday on the University of Kansas campus.
For the second straight season, Olathe North stunned a regional host, edging SM Northwest 3-2.
But in the end, both the Eagles and Olathe East were taken out by the same BV North squad.
The Hawks, 8-13, grabbed a 4-3 lead in the ninth inning against the Mustangs, but coughed up two run in the bottom of the inning.
Olathe North’s stunner followed, but the Eagles didn’t have enough left in the tank against BV North, which advanced to state with a 3-0 win.
Meanwhile, Olathe Northwest hosted a regional once again, but once again came up short of state.
The Ravens beat Washburn Rural 7-2, gaining a spot in the final, but Lawrence — fresh off a 4-0 win against rival Lawrence Free State — clipped coach Rick Setter’s squad 3-2 for the state berth.