The top eight teams from the Eastern Division qualify for the Region VI Tournament, which begins in early May. The Greyhounds (7-21 East, 24-22 overall) entered the weekend four games behind eighth-place Independence. They swept the Pirates (9-19, 13-29) Saturday 5-4 and 3-1 and took Sunday's opener 10-2. Independence kept Fort Scott from moving into a tie for eighth by winning the series finale 3-0.
The ninth-place team heading into the weekend, Labette, saw both of its home doubleheaders against Allen postponed. The Cardinals played Monday against the Red Devils, but results were not available at press time. Labette (7-17, 15-20) will host Allen again today in Parsons before Fort Scott goes there for another key series this weekend.
The Greyhounds may even have a chance to finish seventh -- thus avoiding a first-round pool that will be held at the home field of the Western Division champion -- and will face seventh-place Highland in the final series of the season April 28 and 29 at Highland.
"We gained ground for sure on Independence," Fort Scott head coach John Hill III said. "It remains to be seen on Labette. I haven't looked at Highland's scores. If we're going to make the playoffs, and we deserve to make the playoffs, that's what we need to do and that's what we should do if we're a playoff team. It would have been huge to sweep Independence but three out of four is still a step in the right direction."
Highland (11-17, 21-21) lost at home to Neosho County, 3-0, on Saturday. The second game was suspended and both of Sunday's games were postponed. The teams finished the suspended game and played the scheduled Sunday twinbill on Monday.
Neosho County won the suspended game, 8-4, and the first game of the doubleheader, 5-2. Highland turned around to take the second game of the twinbill, 5-2, to go 2 games ahead of Independence for seventh place.
Saturday: Fort Scott 5-3, Independence 4-1.
Fort Scott went back to the "small-ball" style of play that met with success last season and that made perfect sense with the wind blowing in about 20-30 MPH and the ground being damp as play each day began late after getting the field ready following rain showers.
Neither team scored in Saturday's opener until the sixth inning. Independence posted 2 in the top of that inning while Fort Scott responded with 3 in the bottom half.
Cody McNeece doubled to lead off the sixth. Reyn Sugai followed with a single to left. Cody Ball brought in McNeece with an infield hit and a bad throw allowed Sugai to come in. Cole Fergus followed up with another hit that brought Ball home.
Further damage was averted by Independence as starting pitcher Dylan Mack got a pop up, a strikeout and a fly out to center to get out of the inning. Then the Pirate offense scored twice in the top of the seventh to take the lead, 4-3.
Beau Phillips reached base in the bottom of the inning on a one-out error. McNeece was hit by a pitch and Sugai got on via another error, Indy's third of the game. Ball was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to bring in Phillips and pinch-runner John Morey scored the winning run on a wild pitch.
Ball had 2 of Fort Scott's 6 hits. Ryan Skaggs had 2 hits for Independence.
Aaron Snow was the winning pitcher in relief as the came in with 2 out in the top of the sixth and got a fly out to center to end that inning. Brett Swain pitched the first 5 1/3 innings, allowing 2 hits and 4 walks while striking out 6.
"Swain tweaked his groin in the first inning and pitched all of his innings with a messed-up groin, so that was a gutsy effort," Hill said. "He's our No. 1 guy, and I wish we could have gotten him the win. But that's the type of performance (that) put us in a position to win."
Independence committed four more errors in the second game as the 'Hounds took advantage. Phillips scored the first run in the third when he walked, stole second, then drew a bad throw on a steal of third that went into left field.
The Pirates tied the score in the top of the fourth but the Greyhounds got it right back in the bottom half when Phillips' sacrifice bunt brought Caden Cleveland home. The insurance run went up in the sixth when Parks scored from second on an error with 2 out.
Fort Scott had just 2 hits in the second game but scored 2 unearned runs. Ball and Fergus had the Greyhounds' hits.
"It kind of felt like we were back to last year because (small ball) was our style," Hill said. "And we started out this year with the intent of having that style but ran into some trouble, as everyone knows. But today was a day it paid off. We executed well. I think we missed one but. The sacrifices gave us opportunities."
John Means allowed 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 6 in a complete-game effort.
Sunday: Fort Scott 8-0, Independence 2-3.
Fort Scott scored its runs in bunches in the first game. The first 3 runs came in the third inning.
Parks doubled to left with one out and McNeece drew a walk with 2 out. Sugai doubled in both runners and scored on a throwing error on Ball's single to left.
The Pirates got within one when they scored 2 in the top of the sixth. But the 'Hounds exploded for 5 in the bottom of the frame. Sugai led off with a double to right and Ball singled to left. Fergus sacrifice fly brought Sugai home. Drew singled to right and Corey Stringer singled up the middle, loading the bases. Zack Steadman put down a squeeze bunt and Indy's third baseman made a wild throw trying to get him out at first. All three runners scored and Steadman wound up at third from where he scored on Parks' sacrifice fly.
Fort Scott picked up 10 hits in the opener with Phillips, Sugai and Ball each collecting 2. Clay Ratliff had 2 hits for Independence.
Tim Koons held Indy to 4 hits over the first 6 innings, allowing one walk while striking out 7. Snow pitched the seventh, allowing a leadoff single but stranding the runner.
Independence's Brayden Leirle held Fort Scott to 3 hits in the second game. Two of those came in the bottom of the seventh. Fergus singled to right to lead things off and Drew landed a hit between the left fielder and the shortstop.
Leirle got Cleveland to fly out to right field and the game ended on an unusual double play. Parks struck out and the ball was dropped. But the strikeout stood since first base was occupied. The baserunners broke anyway and Fergus was thrown out trying to take third.
Phillips, Fergus and Drew had the Greyhounds' only hits. Leirle didn't walk anyone and struck out 7.
Chris Mullins had trouble with his control for Fort Scott and made it through just 2 1/3 innings, allowing all 3 runs on 4 hits and 2 walks. Jonny Dierks came in and pitched 3 2/3 innings of no-hit ball, striking out 3 without walking anyone.
"Effort was really good," Hill said. "Chris just couldn't find the zone. But Dierks came in came in and he threw strikes. Wunderlich came in in the seventh and did a great job there.
"(Leirle) didn't throw hard but he did a good job of moving his fastball in and out. And with junior-college hitters, that's all you need to do. He mixed in his breaking ball enough to be effective and didn't leave it in a bad spot. The way he pitched was really good."
Saturday and Sunday's doubleheaders at Labette both begin at 1 p.m. KSEK-FM (99.1) will broadcast Saturday's twinbill, which will also be available at www.991espn.com.
Independence..... 000 002 2 -- 4 6 3
Fort Scott....... 000 003 2 -- 5 6 0
One out when winning run scored.
WP -- Snow. LP -- Keys.
HR -- none.
Independence..... 000 100 0 -- 1 2 4
Fort Scott....... 001 101 x -- 3 2 0
WP -- Means. LP -- Fracek.
HR -- none.
Independence..... 000 002 0 -- 2 5 2
Fort Scott....... 003 005 x -- 8 10 0
WP -- Koons. LP -- Crow.
HR -- none.
Independence.... 201 000 0 -- 3 5 2
Fort Scott...... 000 000 0 -- 0 3 1
WP -- Leirle. LP -- Mullins.
HR -- none.