MAIZE, Kan.—Maize starting pitcher Craig Nicks got about as scuffed up as the ball he was using Friday. The first two innings of No. 2-ranked Maize’s game against Campus were not kind to the 6’6” senior.
No. 4 Campus’ first three batters of the game reached to load the bases with no out. Colton Flax then knocked two runners home with a single to take a 2-0 lead after one inning.
Then in the very next inning, standout Justin Burba hit a bases-clearing triple to plate two more. He then scored on a passed ball. It would not only be the last time Campus scored, but the last time it would threaten.
Nicks settled in, found his confidence and it was business as usual for the boys from the west side as Maize went on to win 9-5.
“We let Craig settle in tonight,” said Maize coach Rocky Helm. “He got really good starting in the third. He got some confidence and started trusting himself. He finally got those couple strikes and started to bear down. You can kind of see it when he gets himself locked in.”
Helm wanted to chip away at the 5-0 lead Campus had built on his squad, and that’s exactly what it did. Maize exposed Campus’ apparent inability to handle a bunt by executing arguably the most simple offensive play in baseball.
With two runners on in the bottom of the second, Seth Troll laid a bunt and reached to load the bags with no outs. On the very next play, Cameron Zane singled to score Lucas Schauer.
A few batters later, Blake Buzard laid down a bunt, reached and scored Blake Davison to make the score 5-2. Just chip away.
“I’m thankful we’re a veteran club,” said Helm. “We’re not there in games yet, but young teams would have played the rollercaoster ride. We just tried to piece a little bit here and there, get one back and scratch at it. Then we got that five-spot in the fourth.”
The idea of chipping, picking and scratching away at the Campus lead was thrown out the window in the fourth inning. DJ McClure got the scoring started in the inning by getting yet another bunt down to make the score 5-3.
A double steal then set up a JC Sturgeon sacrifice fly to right field that plated McClure. Schauer then doubled to tie the game at five. A wild pitch allowed Maize to take the lead at 6-5.
With runners on the corners, Campus catcher Kyle Smith had a lapse in concentration as Maize put on the steal to second. Smith threw down to second, unaware of the runner at third, who scored on the throw to give Maize a 7-5 lead.
Helm couldn’t overstate how important the win was for his club.
“It was a big win for us,” he said. “Nobody knows what we have coming back. We lost a lot from last year. Hopefully people know we’re still going to be around and you’re going to play awfully well to get after us.”
In the bottom of the fifth, Ryan McBroom hit a shot over the right field fence and I the following inning, Braxon Byfield tacked on another home run to complete the 9-5 win.