Iolas Post 15 Indians came into the Kansas AA State Tournament last week knowing that they could and should win the whole thing. They were battled tested from a long high school season that ended with a state championship followed up by a successful Legion season where they lost only five games.
So after going 4-1 in the state tournament and winning their fourth American Legion state title (first since 2013) after defeating Marysville 3-0 in the championship game, the Indians, now 26-6, find themselves in a unique role the underdog.
Iola will face Class AAA state champion Salina tonight in a best-of-three series to determine who gets to represent the state of Kansas in the Mid-South Regional tournament next week in New Orleans. The first game will start at 5 p.m. with the second following immediately after. The two teams will play a deciding third game if the teams split the first two.
The games will be played at the Humboldt Sports Complex.
The Salina Falcons come into todays series as a powerhouse. Theyre 32-2 and have won their last 10 games.
According to the Salina Journal, Salina has a 1.28 ERA while striking out 220 batters as a squad while walking only 69.
Three Falcon hitters are swinging the bat with higher than a .400 average
Meanwhile, the Indians have been just as successful from the mound but they come into tonight with their top two arms, Derek Bycroft and Daylon Splane, unavailable to pitch in a game until Thursday.
Both starters pitched on Saturday in the semifinal and championship game, each throwing over 80 pitches which keeps them off the mound for five days. If the series does go to a third game then both would be available.
Thats not to say the cupboard is bare.
Iola will have Ethan Tavarez, Isaac Vink, Cal Leonard and Kane Rogers available and each has pitched in big spots this season.
While none of the four have been as consistently dominant as either Bycroft or Splane this season, each has the potential to reach those heights on any given day.
Hitting-wise though, both Splane and Bycroft will be in the line-up.
Iola reached the regional back in 2013 and won one game before getting bounced by teams from Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Teams from Columbia, Tenn., Jefferson City, Mo., New Orleans, La., Gonzales, La., Bryant, Ark., Ada, Okla. and Tupelo, Miss. have already qualified for the regional tournament.
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