The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

May 22, 2012

Confidence the key for Frontenac baseball

— The Frontenac Raiders have a complete team.

Seven players carry a batting average above .300. Their top two pitchers have a combined — combined — ERA of 0.94. They’re solid defensively across the field.

But the Raiders’ x-factor can’t be measured in statistics.

“These kids are confident and that’s what makes the difference,” said head coach Bill Sullivan, in his 14th year at Frontenac. “They picked that up last year at the state tournament and it carried over. Sometimes we play best when our backs are against the wall and that comes back to confidence.”

The Raiders take that confidence on a return trip to the Class 3A state tournament on Manhattan this week.

Frontenac, the No. 4 seed with a 21-2 record, faces 17-6 Silver Lake, a perennial baseball power and defending champ that beat the Raiders last year, sending them to a third-place finish.

“We’re excited to get another shot at them but we know it’s going to be a battle,” Sullivan said. “It was a 3-2 game in the sixth inning last year and they erupted. They started hitting the ball where we weren’t and pulled away.”

Matt Standlee leads the Raiders at the plate with a .467 average and 27 RBI while Bryan Wade is hitting .451 with 22 RBI. Starters Blake Vail, Bryce Burdette, Brett Macary and Blake Barto are all hitting over .300 while Ross Edge is hitting .293.

“We talk about approach at the plate, but the biggest thing that has made a difference is their work at practice,” Sullivan said. “They take a ton of cuts and they’ll all up there and wait for a good pitch.

“They get a good pitch and put a good swing on the ball. And hitting is contagious.”

Vail and Standlee are Frontenac’s aces on the mound. Vail is 5-1 with a 0.37 ERA, 46 strikeouts and eight walks. Standlee is 6-1 with a 0.57 ERA, 59 strikeouts and 14 walks. Two of the three earned runs Standlee has allowed came against St. Mary’s-Colgan in the regional title game.

“They’ve been sharp all year and they give us a chance every game,” Sullivan said.

The Raiders lost just twice — to Colgan and in nine innings to Baxter Springs — and earned what Sullivan believes to be the first CNC baseball title in school history.

“We are very proud of that accomplishment,” he said. “To win the CNC, you have to be good every night. This league is so competitive and for us to win it says a lot about our kids.”

Last year’s trip to state was Frontenac’s first since 1996.

“After last year’s success, we knew we had a few holes to fill, but we had guys ready to step and take over,” Sullivan said. “These kids have played together since they were eight years old and they’ve confident, regardless of who they’re playing.”

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