Max Maholland shuts down Kapaun Mt. Carmel in Circle baseball's season opener

Charles Chaney
Butler County Times Gazette
Max Maholland went five complete innings in Thursday's season opening win over Kapaun Mt. Carmel in the Valley Center Invitational in Valley Center Kansas.

VALLEY CENTER – On a cool evening at Stevens Field in Valley Center, the Circle Thunderbirds took on the Kapaun Mt. Carmel CrusFaders in the opening round of the Valley Center Invitational. It was a great opener for both sides as pitching and defense shined throughout. 

For the T-Birds, their pitching was just a little bit better and they came through with some clutch hits and it added up a 3-1 victory.

Circle senior Max Maholland got the start on the hill and quickly established a rhythm in throwing strikes. He shut down KMC in the first inning and got some quick support on the offensive side when Daniel Stoval came through with a two-out RBI single to score Jake Hagemann. Two-out hitting would surface again later on for the Thunderbirds.

The Crusaders would get a two-out RBI of their own in the second to tie the score at 1-1. Maholland allowed nothing more over the next three innings. He was especially good at keeping the ball down and moving it around the plate.

Kapaun starter Jacob Steffen was also solid on the mound, limiting Circle base runners and opportunities to score through four innings.

But in the fifth, an opportunity would surface for the T-Birds. With a runner on second and two outs, Lane Wilhite broke the tie with a sharp single and then Stoval came up and delivered his second hit of the night, a base hit to bring home another run and a 3-1 lead.

“We practice situational hitting every day,” Circle head coach Matt Jordan said. “We’re not a team that’s going to hit the ball around the park a lot, but we are a team that’s going to clutch up and it was big for us to have that confidence and be able to get there.”

In the sixth, Jake Shaults came on to pitch and hold the lead. He quickly sat down the Crusaders in the sixth with fastballs low in the zone, getting several swings and misses.

The T-Birds were not able to tack on to their two-run lead, and so it remained 3-1 going into the seventh. After Shaults got the first out, the next two Crusaders reached base. They advanced into scoring position on a deep flyout. With two down and the tying run at second base, Shaults stood firm and recorded a three-pitch strikeout to end the game and earn the save, while Maholland got the win.

“Our pitching is going to be our strength this year,” Jordan said. “It’s good to come out of the gate with a good first game to get the season rolling.”

The T-Birds will play at 8:30 p.m. Friday again at Stevens Field against host Valley Center.

Circle 3, Kapaun Mt. Carmel 1

Kapaun 010 000 0 – 1 7 1

Circle    100 020 X – 3 6 1       

W: Maholland. L: Steffen. S: Shaults.