Sluggers not taking wins for granted

Charles Chaney
Sluggers head coach Jake Jones approaches the mound on Tuesday, June 23 against Great Bend at Wichita State University's Eck Stadium. The Sluggers are on a roll, winning six straight heading into this week's games.

The Sluggers are enjoying life right now and not because they one of the hottest teams in the league.

With baseball returning, the players understand what they get to do every day and the ability to play a game they love is at the forefront.

“Oh yeah,” Wichita State’s Garrett Kocic said. “You definitely have a renewed love for the game. This is our family.”

When it comes to baseball, the league almost never happened. It was delayed by a month in hopes of COVID-19 flattened and for the league, it reached a point where it is workable.

“We have a really good group of guys who take it very seriously,” Sluggers head coach Jake Jones said. “We’re very aware and are fully about the player’s safety.”

The league and Eck Stadium, who do their Sunflower Showcase on Tuesdays requires masks to be worn while inside the park. While there are some staff members not wearing masks, such in the press box and such, the fans are abiding by the requirement with minimal complaints.

“We’re just happy to be back out here,” Baxley said. “We love this game and with our season being cut short, getting a chance to play once again is really fun.”

The Slugger family has been doing pretty good since the Sunflower League has started back up. After a 13-inning marathon loss on opening night, the Sluggers have been able to shut teams down through their big arms.

They lead the league in fewest home runs allowed (2), earned runs allowed (29), WHIP (Walks and hits per innings pitched), walks and fourth in strikeouts. Only Cheney has better WHIP and batting average allowed. Hutchinson leads Rose Hill in the other categories.

“We have a really nice bullpen,” Zach Baxley said. “So, we’re never worried when we’re down.”

The scores are nowhere near indicative of how good the Sluggers really are. Rose Hill is third in most errors, only behind Haysville and Derby but they have the worst fielding efficiency at 94.7 percent, meaning they allow 5.3 percent of all balls in play are errors.

“Those [errors] will take care of themselves,” Baxley said. “Once we take care of those, we’ll be really tough to beat.”

For now, Rose Hill has won six straight and they’ll host the Hutchinson Monarchs in a series featuring two of the top teams in the league.

The Monarchs suffered their first loss last week to Haysville after winning their first eight games.

Rose Hill will roll out Brian Skillman and Jackson Dietel in the first two games of the series. The Two have been a lethal duo, with a combined ERA of 4.50 and 14 strikeouts.

First two games of the key series will be at Rose Hill High School and then final two will be in Hutchinson. All games are schedule for a 7 p.m. first pitch.

“We know they’re a good team,” Jones said. “We’re a good team, too.”

Rose Hill Sluggers (9-2, 6-2 Sunflower) vs. Hutchinson Monarchs (9-1, 7-1 Sunflower)

Tuesday, June 30: 7 p.m. at Rose Hill

Wednesday, July 1: 7 p.m. at Rose Hill

Thursday, July 2: 7 p.m. at Hobart-Detter Field

Friday, July 3: 7 p.m. at Hobart-Detter Field