By Rick Peterson
Seaman's baseball team entered Tuesday's Class 5A regional tournment on the verge of history, but Viking coach Trent Oliva and his team were only focused on the present.
As it turned out the proud Vikings took care of both ends of the equation, capturing the regional title with a 4-2 championship-game win over Lansing while setting a state record with their 19th straight trip to the state tournament.
"We had not talked about it,'' Oliva said of the state record. "We hadn't talked about the number or anything like that. We just go out and just keep trying to do things the way we know how to do them.''
Seaman, which will take an 18-4 record into next Thursday's state tournament at Wichita State's Eck Stadium, rolled to the regional final with a 12-0 win in four and a half innings over Kansas City-Washington and rode a four-run first inning and clutch pitching from senior Bryson Vawter and sophomore Max Huston to the win over Lansing (14-8), which had handed the Vikings one of their four losses earlier in the year.
With the regional title Seaman moved into sole possession of the state record over Kansas City-Wyandotte, which had a streak of 18 straight state appearances.
"I think this is just a staple of our program,'' Vawter said. "We're just the ones that carry it on and hopefully we can do it next year. It's just the standard that they set the 18 years before us, that you've got to make it to Wichita.
"We carried it on tonight, played well, and this field has some good memories on it for us.''
Seaman never trailed in the final after a big first inning, but the Lions got within two runs in the third and had the tying run at home plate in the top of the seventh beore the Vikings turned a game-ending double play off a lineout.
"This time of the year they're going to be close and you're going to have to go out and make plays,'' Oliva said. "We were able to do that and score four there in the first inning and make that hold up throughout.
"Vawter did a great job and kind of battled through a little bit of adversity in the middle of the game, toughened up and goes through six and then Max does a good job coming in there and we were able to make some plays behind him,'' Oliva said.
Junior Kaden Griffin struck the big blow for Seaman in the first with a two-run single while the Vikings also scored runs on an errant pickoff attempt and a wild pitch.
Lansing, which advanced to the championship game with a 2-1 eight-inning win over St. James Academy, got back in the hunt on a two-run double from senior Blake Slaughter but Vawter responded with three straight one-two-three innings to protect Seaman's two-run lead.
Vawter allowed just two hits in his six innings of work while striking out nine and issuing two walks.
"I've had struggles all year getting high and deep in counts and I think just digging down deep and executing pitches when I needed to the most is what I was able to do tonight,'' Vawter said.
Vawter reached his 105-pitch limit on his final batter in the sixth, finishing with 109 pitches, before turning things over to sophomore Max Huston in the seventh.
Lansing junior James Umbarger opened the seventh with a single, but Seaman got the first out of the inning on a forceout and ended the game with emphasis, turning the double play to set off the Vikings' title celebration.
Next up for the nine-time state-champion Vikings is the familiar trip to Wichita, with the state pairings to be released after the conclusion of all eight regional tournaments.
SEAMAN 4, LANSING 2
Lansing (14-8) 002 000 0 -- 2 3 1
Seaman (18-4) 400 000 x -- 4 4 0
Howell, Mendez (2) and Oakley. Vawter, Huston (7) and Dobbs. W -- Vawter. L -- Howell. 2B -- Lansing: Slaughter.