Abilene plays at 6 p.m.
“The pressure is all on them,” said Abilene coach Andy Cook. “This team that we have, we have watched them mature throughout the year offensively and defensively. This is the best defensive team by the numbers that we have put on the field in eight or 10 years. They weren’t, early in the season.
“If they continue to do that and we also throw in the offense that we have shown we are capable of doing, we can beat a lot of people.
“We just haven’t been able to do that too many times this year,” Cook said.
But first the Cowboys had to play a makeup game Thursday night at Smoky Valley.
“We would much rather have played this earlier,” Cook said. “ We couldn’t find a time. For us, it is one last tune up before regional. I think if a guy signs up to play high school baseball he ought to get 20 games. I hate to see any game wiped off.
Cook said several players could spend some time on the mound against Smoky Valley. The positive thing is, this time of year it’s hard to get fired up for practice. It’s a lot easier to get fired up to play. Dalton Millican will get the start Monday against Royal Valley and was expected to pitch some against the Vikings.
“We’re going to throw Millican tonight for a little tune up,” Cook said before the game. “Millican is the kind of guy that can throw a good 30, 40, 50 pitches and come back two or three days later and he’ll be strong. It’s just like throwing a bullpen for him.”
Bryce Meuli had seen limited time pitching, nursing an arm injury but will start game two, if the Cowboys win.
“If we get past day number one, he’ll get the next start,” Cook said. “We have measured his pitch count throughout the year because of the rehab on the arm. His last several times out it has felt good for him. We picked it up to around 50, 60 pitches. On a good day, 50, 60 pitches can get you five or six innings.’
But Smoky Valley is in the boat with Abilene. The Vikings travel to Maize South to play Wichita Trinity Academy for a noon game Monday.
“Royal Valley has obviously a good record,” Cook said. “They have great offensive power. We don’t have a lot of common opponents. They did play Wamego. It looks to me like, at least offensively, they’ll be a nice matchup for us. I can’t really tell how our pitching is going to stack up. I like our chances. Last year we had maybe a little tougher opponent and our kids went out there and battled.”
Abilene lost to Topeka Hayden, the 2011 regional winner, 7-6.
“I honestly believe that if these guys can go out there and put it all together, they can make some noise,” Cook added. “I always get excited about playing a team that we don’t ever see. It’s always fun to play a new opponent. I am not thrilled about a long bus trip.”
On offense, Nolan Berry has the best batting average of .404. He’s blasted six doubles and scored 10 runners. Kane Kelly is batting .353. He has two triples, two doubles and 10 RBI on the season.
Millican’s ERA is 3.41 and he has 30 strikeouts. Meuli’s ERA is 3.50 with 17 strikeouts. Alex Friederich has a 3.63 ERA and has 27 strikeouts.
Smoky Valley split games
LINDSBORG — The Abilene Cowboys will be heading into the Class 4A regional baseball tournament on a positive note. Abilene won the second game of a doubleheader against Smoky Valley, 20-6, Thursday.
“What this team could be if they ever find a way to do it all at the same time,” said Abilene coach Andy Cook.
Smoky Valley won the first game, 6-3, in a doubleheader originally scheduled for April 5.
Smoky Valley, which also plays in a Class 4A regional at Wichita on Monday, scored four runs in the first inning and Abilene could never get the lead. The Cowboys scored two runs in the second inning and one in the sixth.
Grant Prichard and Alex Friederich both had RBI’s. Dalton Millican pitched for four innings. He gave up one earned run on three hits. He struck out seven and walked just one batter. Matt McClanahan finished the last two innings.
It was the Cowboys that took the early lead in game two scoring five runs in the first to lead 5-2. Smoky Valley came back with three runs in the top of the second but Abilene scored in the bottom half to lead 7-6.
The game broke open when Abilene scored nine runs in the fourth and four in the fifth.
Kane Kelly had a single and a double and seven RBI. Nolan Berry hit a double and had three RBI. Colton Mills also doubled for two RBI.
Bryce Meuli pitched all five innings. He gave up two earned runs on six hits. He struck out nine.
The Cowboys finished the regular season 5-15 and will travel to Hoyt to play Royal Valley in a 6 p.m. game Monday.
Smoky Valley 6, Abilene 3
Abilene 0 2 0 0 0 1 0—3
Smoky Valley 4 0 1 0 1 0 x—6
Abilene (Ab, H, R): Kane Kelly 4 1 0, Matt McClanahan 2 1 2, Alex Friederich 2 0 0, Eric Wilson 2 0 0, Chase Stalder 3 0 1, Bryce Meuli 4 0 0, Grant Prichard 4 2 0, Dalton Millican 3 0 0, Nolan Berry 4 2 1. Totals 27 7 3.
Abilene 20, Smoky Valley 6
Abilene 5 1 1 9 4—20
Smoky Valley 2 3 1 0 0—6
Abilene (Ab, H, R): Kane Kelly 4 3 3, Brandon Moyer 3 1 2, Matt McClanahan 3 2 3, Alex Friederich 4 2 1, Bryce Meuli 4 2 3, Carson Sherbert 3 2 2, Colton Mills 4 2 3, Nolan Berry 3 2 1, Chad Beech 4 1 2. Totals 32 17 20.