TOPEKA — The Rock Creek Mustangs kept Lyons/Chase off-balance throughout the game on Thursday afternoon, winning 6-2 during opening-round action of the Class 3A state baseball tournament at Washburn’s Falley Field.
The Mustangs (19-4), who padded an early 3-0 cushion with one run in the fourth inning and two in the fifth, rode pitcher Caleb Rogge’s six-plus innings of shutout ball into Friday morning’s semifinal against No. 1-seed Council Grove (24-0).
The consolation and title games were scheduled for Friday afternoon.
“Caleb’s been dominant; he’s had a tremendous year,” Rock Creek coach Chad Herren said of Rogge, who improved to 6-1 on the season. “He has a great deal of arm strength, and he’s been good for us all year.”
Rogge yielded nine hits, although Lyons/Chase (18-5) failed to land a timely one, finally breaking up his shutout bid with two out in the seventh on Ryan McClure’s two-run single to center. This came after Rock Creek third baseman Jackson Goodmiller temporarily preserved Rogge’s shutout by lunging to his left and snaring a line drive off the bat of Jacob Buckman with a runner in scoring position.
“I couldn’t ask anything more from him,” Herren said of Rogge. “He scattered nine hits, and that didn’t bother me one bit.
“I think our defense behind him is one of the better ones around.”
Rogge’s pitch count reached 105 for the game. He struck out three and walked one.
“I was just trying to mix the pitches up,” said Rogge of facing the Lions, who stranded nine baserunners, “I was trying to get them to hit ground balls.”
Rock Creek kept the game scoreless in the top of the second after recording an inning-ending double play — the first of a couple gems the Mustangs had in the game. Lyons’ Luis Reyes lofted a fly ball to Rock Creek right fielder Zac Nider, who made the catch and then gunned down Angel Holguin, who tagged up from third, at the plate.
The Mustangs scored their trio of runs in the second without recording a hit for a 3-0 lead against Grady Kirkhart, Lyons’ starting pitcher. Brett Hammett started the surge by reaching on an error, Jesse Correl followed by getting hit by a pitch and Nick Beyer walked to load the bases.
Kirkhart was then called for a balk, pushing Hammett across the plate with Rock Creek’s first run. Dustin Harrison followed by drawing a walk to reload the bases, and Austin Sellers’ fielder’s choice drove home Correl. Nider’s RBI groundout drove home Beyer with the third run.
“It was a good momentum swing for us,” Rogge said.
It was 4-0 after four innings after Correl led off with a double down the right-field line and scored on Sellers’ RBI single. Sellers finished 1 for 3 with two RBI, and No. 9 hitter Nider also drove in a run.
“They put me there (deep in the order) for a reason and they have faith in me that I can get a hit,” said Sellers, a designated hitter.
Rock Creek manufactured a pair of runs in the fifth to extend its lead to 6-0. The inning was kick-started by catcher Alex Feldkamp, who greeted the reliever McClure with a bunt single.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Sellers said of playing in the state tourney, “and now we have an opportunity to win a state championship.”