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Russell/Victoria headed for state

5/28/2014

By NICK McQUEEN

nmcqueen@dailynews.net

In the second year of a two-year baseball agreement between Russell and Victoria High Schools, the move is paying off big.

For the first time since 2008, Russell's baseball program is headed to state. The Broncos' 14 varsity players, with five guys from Victoria, are headed to the Class 4A Division II state tournament, which begins Thursday at Pratt Community College.

"It's always exciting to have the opportunity to go down and chase a state title," said Bronco first-year coach Zach Shipley. "I'm excited. We have good kids. I was lucky, being a first-year coach. I definitely didn't come in with an empty cupboard.

"We have some good ball players -- sure makes me look good when they play well."

In the May 19 regional at Moffet Stadium in Larned, Russell/Victoria defeated Hoisington/Clafin 18-5 with a season-high 16 hits in the semifinals, then knocked off host Larned, 5-2 to reach state. It's the fourth time in Russell school history the Broncos have a team in the state tourney.

"They're super-scrappy," said Shipley, a 1999 Dodge City High School graduate and former player for NCAA Division I Arkansas State University. "That's the biggest thing with this team. I don't really have one No. 1."

Sixth-seeded Russell/Victoria (14-8) will face Wichita-Trinity (18-4) in Thursday's 6:30 p.m. first-round game. If the Broncos win, they will play again Friday against either Burlington (18-4) or Kansas City-Bishop Ward (12-10). A loss ends the season Thursday.

"It's the prime-time game," Shipley said of Thursday's opener. "Should be fun to get out underneath the lights, and play another quality ball club. The kids have never played on this stage, so should be fun to get out and see how they react to it."

Taylor Rome, who just finished his junior year at Victoria, leads the team in batting at .437, and is tied for second on the team with RBIs at 15 with sophomore Brady Dinkel, also from Victoria. Senior Kaden Rohr (Russell) has driven in 16 runs, while batting .386 (second behind Rome). Sophomore Grant Weber (Victoria) leads the team in doubles with six.

Pitching-wise, the Broncos have five guys with at least two wins, and none with more than three. Sophomore Brandon Ridgley (Russell) leads the way in innings pitched at 37.1.

He carries a 2-2 record with a 1.68 earned-run average and 19 strikeouts to nine walks. Rome is 3-1 in six appearances (26 innings) with a 1.62 ERA and 18 strikeouts to 12 walks. Rohr also is 3-1 in six appearances (17.2) innings and team-high 21 strikeouts to nine walks.

"We have guys you consider the 1A, 1B, 1C, then four guys after that are 2A, 2B, 2C, 2D," Shipley said. "We don't really have anyone that's going to blow you away. They come in, they fill it up, they play defense."

The wins against Hoisington and Larned snapped a four-game losing skid for the Broncos to close the regular season. That included a pair of 4-3 losses against TMP-Marian.

Shipley thought his club should match up well with Wichita-Trinity.

"They sound very similar to us -- arms that throw it up," he said. "They're super aggressive on the base paths. Sounds like it could be a fun day at the yard."

On the other side of the bracket, Goodland (7-13) is the No. 8 seed after winning the regional at Scott City. Goodland will face top-seed Perry-Lecompton (19-3). The winner will get either Baxter Springs (18-4) or Concordia (15-5).