By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
The last time Galen McSpadden stood on the infield turf at Lawrence Dumont Stadium, he was assisting legendary coach Mike Hargrove in the National Baseball College World Series.
But this time, he isn’t taking the summer baseball program to a tournament.
Instead, McSpadden is taking his red hot Seward County Saints who have won 12 of their last 13 games including a three-game sweep of the Region VI Super Regional competition.
While the stadium may be the same, the field has changed.
Lawrence Dumont no longer has a turf infield and a grass outfield. The entire surface is turf. The dugouts have been expanded.
“It’s better than the last time we were there,” McSpadden said.
Seward’s run this season has shown a resiliency from a team that didn’t have the best fall season.
But the team improved during the off season and earned the Jayhawk West title.
Now, the Saints are three games away from a trip to Grand Junction Colo., and the NJCAA College World Series.
“This team has bought in to a level playing field,” McSpadden said. “They don’t get on a roller coaster and get too high or too low.”
McSpadden said there hasn’t been a lot of dissatisfaction with playing time, and since the players know their roles and have accepted them, the team has been able to succeed.
“This is a special group of guys,” McSpadden said. “When you have a team that competes and believes in themselves, they win some games that they shouldn’t.”
There have already been some special highlights for this edition of the Saints.
They won the program’s 1,000th game.
They won the Jayhawk West Conference title.
They were the Super Regional champions.
McSpadden said returning to the World Series with this team would be special.
“Of all the things I’ve done, including pro ball, going to the World Series was the highlight of my career,” he said. “To go back there with these guys, it would be a lot of fun.”
McSpadden’s pro experience also affects how he coaches his team. He doesn’t take the bat out of a player’s hand early in the game.
In the second inning, he could have bunted catcher Eddie Williams to move runners, instead, McSpadden has Williams swing away. While Williams was thrown out, he went on to get three hits in the game.
“He knows we have confidence in his ability to hit,” McSpadden said. “If I had him bunt in the second, it sends a signal that he’s an out. He probably doesn’t get three hits after a bunt. I like the guys to play like the pros. We have confidence in our players.”
That confidence and expectation level may be what the Saints need to advance.
“We only went to three pitchers in the Super Regional,” McSpadden said. “We ae going to have to do some intersquad so our other guys are ready. The competition gets tougher now, but we’re ready. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
Seward faces Neosho at 4 p.m. Saturday.
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