Saturday, November 01, 2014

Wellsville has designs on title

By Greg Mast/Herald Sports Editor | 5/28/2014

The designs of going for a state championship does not come by accident. The Wellsville High School baseball team has been a top-flight squad in 3A the past five seasons.

The Eagles have qualified for state five years in a row and finished as state runner-up two years ago. Ten players returned from last year’s state team, which lost to an undefeated and top-seeded Wichita Independent squad.

The designs of going for a state championship does not come by accident. The Wellsville High School baseball team has been a top-flight squad in 3A the past five seasons.

The Eagles have qualified for state five years in a row and finished as state runner-up two years ago. Ten players returned from last year’s state team, which lost to an undefeated and top-seeded Wichita Independent squad.

The seeds were planted in that loss. All the players told coach Casey Quinlan in the fall it was state championship time in baseball.

The team set six goals. The Eagles met the first five. All is left is winning the 3A State Tournament championship.

Wellsville (21-2) put together a sterling regular season with the most wins in program history. The drive for a state title continues 6:30 p.m. today when the Eagles face sixth-seeded Leon-Bluestem (16-7) in the first round of the state tournament at Washburn University’s Falley Field in Topeka.

“We are feeling confident,” senior Luke Meyer said. “It is nothing we have not done before. If we play our game, we will be fine. You can’t over think it. Come out relaxed and do what we do.”

Quinlan has coached baseball for 37 years and is taking his 20th team to state. He has won five state titles. He said the Eagles possess the best talent he has ever coached.

“This is the best overall group of athletes I have had,” Quinlan said. “I have been at the 5A and 6A level. I have a great bunch. The kids are at the right place at the right time.”

The Eagles dubbed this year as “A Championship Season.” And for good reason. The Eagles only losses came to Baldwin when the squad played in back-to-back doubleheaders.

“We have had a super year,” Quinlan said. “We are getting better.”

Many of the seniors have chased a state title in other sports. The football team has been in the playoffs throughout their careers. The basketball team is coming off an 20-4 season and a state berth.

“We want to make most of this opportunity we have in front of us,” Meyer, an all-state baseball and football player, said. “I know playing three different sports has helped me in every aspect. We know what is ahead.

“We are a good team too. There is a reason why we are there and made it five years in a row. Wellsville has a history at being good at baseball. We have been preparing. We have the right approach in our mind.”

Wellsville’s older players have been in different situations. Wellsville was the No. 7 seed two years ago and rallied from a big deficit to win the opener en route to the runner-up finish.

“Even though we are seeded third, everybody there is good,” Quinlan said. “It is the third season. Everybody is going after No. 1. We intend to bring our ‘A’ game.”

Meyer said the Eagles will not overlook Leon-Bluestem.

“They are an all-around baseball team,” Meyer said. “They can beat anyone. Anything can happen.”

Wellsville pitchers have a team earned run average of 1.07. Senior ace Shamus Kearney is 9-0 with a save and 0.41 ERA. Meyer is 6-0 with 56 strikeouts. Jared Klamm is 2-1 with a 0.43 ERA.

“We have had a solid rotation,” Meyer said. “Hopefully our pitching will guide us to a state championship.”

Meyer said the players understand what it takes to win at a high level.

“If the errors happen, you have to have the mental toughness to play through that,” Meyer said. “Even if the pitcher is good, you have to go and hit. You have to have the same approach. Concentrate on hitting the ball up the middle.”

Wellsville has a team batting average of .532 with 177 RBIs.

“This is it for the six seniors,” Quinlan said. “They should have fond memories.”

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