By JIM MISUNAS
MANHATTAN — Larned’s state baseball experience gives the Indians and last year’s runner-up Wellsville the edge with four newcomers at the Class 3A state tournament at Kansas State University.
Top-seeded Nemaha Central, Remington, Cheney and Royal Valley all make their first state baseball appearance. Central Kansas League champion Larned (18-3) plays Cheney (16-7) scheduled for 5:45 p.m. Thursday, which has been delayed until at least 8 p.m. because of lightning and thunderstorms.
Larned beat Lakin 8-1 and Ellsworth 13-3 to qualify for state baseball for the third time. Isiah Perez struck out 10 batters and delivered a three-run double that cleared the bases against Lakin. Landon Erway drove in five runs against Ellsworth. Cheney upset No. 1 ranked Wichita Independent 2-1 to qualify. RF Lakin Petz saved the game against Independent.
“The guys are pretty excited to play baseball on the turf,” said Larned coach Chadc Erway. “I’m confident the way we put the ball in play last week. We have confidence we’ll be successful.”
Perez (6-0) will start Thursday’s opener on the artificial turf at Tointon Family Stadium.
“We’re putting our best pitcher out there. We’re confident that Isiah will throw strikes and we’ll play defense behind him,” said Larned coach Chad Erway. “Our experience helps. We’ve competed in big games and won three league straight league titles and played in three straight regional finals. We put our players in position to be successful. We’ve played in these types of big situations.”
The Indians practied at Fort Hays State’s turf infield to get a feel for the surface, which changes infield play.
“Turf plays faster and bounces true,” Erway said. “The biggest change is you have to slide earlier or you’ll go past a base. You have to adjust the way you bunt because the surface plays quicker.”
After Perez, the Indians will feature pitchers Landon Erway (5-1) and Evan Skelton (5-1). The Indians reached the Class 4A-Div. 2 semifinals last year before losing to Concordia, the eventual runner-up.
• Nemaha Central (20-1) vs. Royal Valley (13-8), 11 a.m. — The Thunder feature three pitchers with a 15-0 record and 2.25 ERA. Royal Valley upset Silver Lake 1-0 in the regional and sports an 8-1 record since starting 5-7.
• Wellsville (18-3) vs. Council Grove (16-5), 1:15 p.m. — Last year’s state runner-up Wellsville won the 2014 title. Tony Dougan (5-1, 2.00 ERA) and Lucas Dwyer (4-0) lead the way. The Braves are led by LHP Daniel Bachura (8-1) with no earned runs in his last four games.
• Remington (17-2) vs. Galena (16-7), 3:30 p.m. — Remington beat Sedgwick 4-3 to qualify. Galena owns two state titles (2010, 1979). PJ Sarwinski (.493) has 25 RBI and 24 steals.