By PAT SANGIMINO
Special to The Telegram
EMPORIA — Jacob Kinderknect has a secret. And usually by the time it's uncovered, it's too late.
The Ellis High senior had his way with Sublette on Friday, surrendering just two hits, while striking out eight in the Railroaders' 8-0 Class 2A
quarterfinal victory — the first state tournament victory in the program's brief three-year history.
"I like to tell my teammates that the other team doesn't know I get better and sharper as the game goes on," Kinderknect said. "They don't know that I
am a lot sharper at the end of the game."
By the time the Larks, also making their first state-tournament appearance in their sixth year of existence, figured it out, they were packing their bags
and preparing for the trip home.
"He wasn't unhittable, but as he got going, it was tougher to make things happen against him," Sublette coach Ryan Hafen said.
The Larks' best chance to score came in the first inning. After spotting Ellis a one-run lead in the top of the first, Joseph Lower led off the
bottom of the first with a ground-ball single through the right side of the infield. Matthew Lower then dropped a bunt. Kinderknect fielded it cleanly, but his
throw to second was too late to get Joseph Lower. Travis Leverett then hit a sharp grounder to short. The throw to third forced Joseph Lower at third, but Matthew Lower advanced all the way to third on the throw to first.
When Pat Dreiling's throw to third base was overthrown, Lower and third baseman Matthew Cunningham became tangled. Interference could have been called, which would have awarded Sublette with the run, but the contact between the two was deemed incidental.
Regardless, the Larks had runners on second and third with one out. That's when Kinderknect bore down and got the final two outs on a strikeout and pop up to the catcher. Sublette didn't get a runner to second base the rest of the way. The Larks had just one more hit and three other base runners.
"(Kinderknect) was sharp today," Hafen said. "It looks like we came out a little flat. Whatever caused that, I don't know."
The Railroaders added two runs in the third and one more in the fourth to take a 4-0 lead, which seemed to be plenty considering the way Kinderknect was pitching. But Ellis coach Rick Cunningham still wasn't comfortable.
"I was feeling good with a 4-0 lead, but I wasn't ready to say it was over," Cunningham said.
The white flag was officially raised when Ellis struck for four runs in the top of the seventh inning. The big hits were a RBI singles by Dreiling and
Kyle Fox and a bloop two-run double by Jakeual Delaney that eluded the glove of a diving Joseph Lower in centerfield.
In the semifinals, Ellis will face top-seeded Pittsburg-Colgan, which beat Moundridge in the day's first game.
Ellis 8, Sublette 0
Ellis (15-6) 102 100 4 -- 8 10 1
Sublette (16-6) 000 000 0 -- 0 2 3
J.Kinderknect and D.Kinderknect. Stokes and M.Lower. W-J.Kinderknect.
L-Stokes. 2B-Ellis, Cunningham, Delaney.