By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
Seward may not have ended the regular season the way they hoped, but the Saint took care of business on the road in the opening series of the Region VI tournament by knocking off two-time defending Region VI champion Neosho, and now the Saints are headed to the Super Regional with momentum.
“One of our famous sayings is you are only as good as the last game,” Seward coach Galen McSpadden said. “That game sets the tone, and we were pretty jacked up after that win.”
Seward dominated Neosho 14-2 in the game that decided which team moved on to the Super Regional, and now McSpadden has another Saints team back in the Super Regional with a berth to the national tournament on the line.
McSpadden has taken teams to the Super Regional as the favorites and as underdogs, and his experience has been that it’s not alway the top seed that earns the trip to Grand Junction, Colo.
“After last weekend we feel pretty good,” he said. “We did what we expected to do all year. It’s not the team that finishes one, two or three that wins it, it’s the hottest. Our ability to go to Neosho and win two out of three, we feel like, ‘Who knows?’ We haven’t put together a win streak all season. It takes four games in a row. We don’t have anything to prove, we are fortunate where we are and based on how we played in the season, the last weekend was huge momentum.”
The team left earlier today and will practice at Lawrence Dumont Stadium in Wichita. Tonight, the coaches will meet and discuss all region selections as well as any other Jayhawk Conference baseball concerns.
Friday, the tournament will begin at 10 a.m., but the Saint will not play until 7 p.m. in the feature game against No. 18 Hutchinson.
Seward struggled against the Blue Dragons in the regular season, dropping all four games. Two of those losses were 5-4, and 4-2.
“They are a good ball club,” McSpadden said. “They beat us four games. We should have won two, possibly three. We are not afraid of them. The percentages on our side. It’s hard to beat a team five times in a season. We went and took care of business in Neosho, and now we are looking forward to playing Hutch.”
JB Olson is the projected starter for the Saints. Olson faced the Blue Dragons earlier.
“He only had one inning the entire game that we didn’t play well behind him,” McSpadden said. “He’s the guy we will give the ball to.”
McSpadden’s experience kep his approach to the tournament the same as his approach has been to every game.
“If you are doing things right you don’t change much,” he said. “You settle in. We practiced under the lights last night for a reason. We play at 7. We thought that would give us a little idea of the environment and lighting would be. Dumont has stronger lights that what we have, so it won’t be as bad at dusk.”
Dumont is a fully turfed field, including the base areas. The only dirt on the field is the pitcher’s mound.
While Brent Gould Field may not be turfed, the last seven games the Saints have played have been on turf, something McSpadden believes will benefit his team.
“The last series with Butler was on turf,” he said. “And the last series with Neosho was on turf. We have had seven games on turf, and that will help us. We played pretty well after the third game of Butler on turf. That makes a big difference.”
Seward (29-26) finished fifth in the Jayhawk West and had to travel to Neosho for the first round, but McSpadden said that his team is focused on its future, not its past.
“We are right where we need to be,” he said. “You can’t go back and set your mood on anything that happened. We played well at Neosho, and really well on Sunday.
“It appears the way the guys reacted against Neosho no one wants to go home. They want to finish what they started, and they are four games away. We finished above 500. This was only third time in my coaching career here that we had to travel in the first round of the playoffs. We went on the road and took care of business. We just need to continue to do that.”
The tournament games will be broadcast online. To watch, go to the Saints baseball schedule at sewardsaints.com and click the video link.