By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
RIVERTON, Kan. —
Matt Standlee wanted the ball on Tuesday night.
The Frontenac junior had already beaten St. Mary’s-Colgan once this season and he wanted another crack at the rival Panthers, this time with a trip to the state tournament on the line.
He got the ball and he didn’t disappoint.
Standlee scattered seven hits and struck out seven in a complete-game effort while going 2-for-4 with an RBI at the plate, leading the Raider to a 5-2 win over Colgan in the Class 3A regional title game.
“As a competitor, Matt wanted the ball in this game,” Frontenac coach Bill Sullivan said. “After he beat Colgan a couple weeks ago, he knew this matchup could be coming again. He was excited to get the ball and he wasn’t going to give it up. And I wasn’t going to take it from him.”
Frontenac, now 18-2, makes its second straight trip to Manhattan for the 3A state tournament at Kansas State’s Tointon Family Stadium. The Raiders took third last season in their first trip under Sullivan, who is in his 14th season at Frontenac.
“We wanted to get back so badly,” Sullivan said. “That was the big thing going through my mind, we gotta get back. They walked out of there last year happy to get third place, but they wanted more. Now we’re a year older and we know we can maybe go up there and make a run. We’re going to represent the CNC.”
Colgan, meanwhile, will not play in a state tournament for just the third time in coach Mike Watt’s 27-year tenure. The Panthers are in their first season in 3A after moving up from 2-1A.
The Raiders moved into the title game with behind Blake Vail’s complete-game shutout of Southeast. Vail struck out seven and the Raiders won 5-0.
Frontenac then gave the ball to their ace Standlee for the title game, but things didn’t start smoothly.
Colgan’s Christian Cedeno — who struck out 14 batters in a 2-0 win over Riverton in the semifinals —reached on a one-out error, moved to second on a Sam Gilbert single and scored on Jesse Newcomb’s single to center. And after Drew Dawson walked, the Panthers had the bases loaded with still just one out.
But Frontenac catcher Bryan Wade fielded Jack Villamaria’s nubber in front of the plate, stepped on home and threw to first for an inning-ending double play to limit the damage to one run.
“We played great defense in clutch situations today,” Sullivan said. “We’ve been pitching well, but our defense has kept games close for us.”
Frontenac tied the game in the second when Ross Edge’s liner to right drove home courtesy runner Ethan Powell, in for Standlee, who led off the inning with a single on a grounder to center.
The Raiders opened up the game in the fifth with three runs on five singles, including Blake Barto’s two-run single to left that drove home Brett Macary and Blake Vail.
That gave Standlee a 4-1 cushion with just six more outs needed to secure the trip to state.
“That took a lot of pressure off me,” Standlee said. “I was able to get into a groove.”
Standlee then got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the sixth by allowing just one run. He left the tying run on base when he struck out Nate Grimaldi on three pitches to end the inning.
The Raiders added an insurance run in the sixth before Standlee retired the Panthers in order in the seventh — including two more strike outs — to end the game and ignite a celebration on the infield.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Sullivan said. “We knew we were going to play two tough games today ... and we did some good things. We had timely hits, we threw well and we played great defense behind our pitchers. And that’s the key.”