Behind junior Zack Engelkens 15-strikeout performance, Blue Valley West punched a ticket to the Kansas Class 6A state baseball tournament for the third consecutive season.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Engelken overpowered BV Northwest on Wednesday at BV West, scattering five hits and a walk during a 5-1 Jaguars victory.
This was his best outing by far, BV West coach Bill McDonald said. His best velocity, his best curve, his best change it was all tonight.
Catcher Tanner Gragg said Engelken was sharp in the bullpen before the game and had all three pitches in his repertoire a fastball, change-up and curveball working.
Engelkens fastball regularly toughed 88-89 mph during the first four innings and, during one stretch, he struck out eight consecutive Huskies.
Still pumping gas at 86 during the later innings, Engelken worked in the curve more to close out the win.
They couldnt catch up to him, so we kept throwing it until they caught up and then started mixing the other stuff in, Gragg said.
BV West, which finished second at state behind BV North last season, took advantage of a first-inning throwing error by shortstop Clay Custer in building a 1-0 lead behind Engelken.
Two more Husky errors in the fourth inning allowed the Jags to pull ahead 5-0.
Juniors Garrett Smith and Evan Bourn opened the inning with singles before junior Luke Viestenz laid down a sacrifice bunt up the third-base line.
BV Northwest senior southpaw Trent Lunsford fielded it cleanly, but overshot senior first baseman Sean Laughlin, allowing two runs to score.
Following an RBI groundout by sophomore Sam Davis, sophomore Connor Kaiser reached on an error and scored on sophomore Sam Dailys double to deep left.
We really took advantage of their errors and got some big hits after those errors, said Engelken, who believed 15 strikeouts were a personal best.
Custer, who had two of the Huskies hits, smacked an RBI double to left-center in the sixth, but that was the only run Engelken permitted.
Its awesome to be going back to state, Gragg said. Hopefully, we can win it all this time.
En route to the regional final, senior Derek Hurt tossed a complete-game shutout during BV Wests 8-0 semifinals win against Shawnee Mission North. Hes yet to allow an earned run in 40 innings this season.
Meanwhile, Laughlin prevailed in a 3-2 pitchers duel against BV North in the other semifinal, which BV Northwest won thanks to senior Nick Fioritos sixth-inning RBI groundout that broke a 2-2 tie.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.