May 26, 2022

Cowboys clash with Chieftans to kick off state tournament run

Posted May 26, 2022 8:01 PM

Salina Post contributor

Coverage of Abilene baseball is presented by Salina Ortho: Quality orthopedic care when you need it!
Coverage of Abilene baseball is presented by Salina Ortho: Quality orthopedic care when you need it!

The Abilene baseball team will kick off their state tournament run as the seven-seed on Thursday, taking on the 18-3 Tonganoxie for a ticket to this year’s state semis.

Despite featuring a sophomore-heavy lineup, the Cowboys have looked excellent in 2022, knocking off Mulvane and Garden Plain in one-run ballgames to win their 4A regional.

“We knew we would have a chance to get here and with one of the best trio of arms in 4A I like our chances against anybody in a 2-3 game tournament,” Abilene head coach Travis Bartley said. “It all came together here at the end and we were in a lot of one-run ballgames this season. That helped us hang tough in the regional tournament.”

The Cowboys enter state bracket play at 13-8 with a loaded schedule behind them, and a gauntlet still ahead.

“We knew that McPherson was going to be the big-time favorites going in but this is a Tonganoxie team that knocked off the defending 4A state champs and that says a lot,” Bartley said.

Before eliminating Bishop Meige 6-4 Tonganoxie manhandled Holton 10-0 in yet another display of elite Chieftan pitching.

“This is a team that’s impressive offensively but that staff has a sub-2 ERA and a starter who won 4A Pitcher of the Year,” he said. “I expect a tight ballgame on Monday and we’re expecting a battle.”

On the hill, Abilene also boasts one of the best in 4A, turning once again to their ace in Stocton Timbrook, who boasts a sub-3 ERA while holding opposing lineups to a .225 average.

“As just a sophomore no one really knows how far he might be able to take his game,” Bartley said. “He has an outstanding fastball that’s only going to get harder to hit and the ball comes out of his hand so easily. He has confidence in his off-speed stuff and he can rack up strikeouts against any lineup.”

As for the Cowboy lineup, the wrecking crew of Drew Hansen, Zach Miller, Carter Taplin, Timbrook, and Kyson Becker will need to be on their game against elite pitching this week.

“We seem to take better at-bats against better pitching,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to affect us mentally we just have to be prepared to jump on fastballs early and hopefully not see as many of those secondary pitches.”

Despite being a young squad playing with house money, this team isn’t simply “happy to be here,” and behind their pitching trio of Timbrook, Kyson Becker, and Sam Burton, the Cowboys will look to put it all together and bring a title back to Abilene.

“If we play up to our potential we can win a state championship for sure, no doubt,” Bartley said. “Pitching wise we can match up with anybody and offensively we’re going to give anyone a tough go. I love this group and in postseason baseball anything can happen.”

First pitch for the quarterfinal between the Cowboys and Chieftans is set for 3:30 pm at Dean Evans Stadium in Salina. The winner will advance to the semis to take on 16-5 Clay Center or 14-7 Paola on Friday.