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Andover Central seniors Rob Housley, Austin Clark, Ryan Banwart, Lucas Milner, Blake Meier, Kier Stamp, Austin McKenna and Austin Cole, photographed at their high school gym in Andover Wednesday.

Andover Central seniors Rob Housley, Austin Clark, Ryan Banwart, Lucas Milner, Blake Meier, Kier Stamp, Austin McKenna and Austin Cole, photographed at their high school gym in Andover Wednesday. Fernando Salazar/The Wichita Eagle | Buy this photo

Milner out front for Jaguars

Published March 26 at 7:48 p.m. | Last updated March 27 at 7:09 a.m.

Andover Central’s baseball postseason was one tightrope act after another last spring. Both of the Jaguars’ regional victories were one-run games, as was a Class 5A quarterfinal loss to Shawnee Heights.

In each game, right-hander Lucas Milner was on the mound for Central in the most critical situations. At times, he flourished. In others, he held things together without his best stuff.

“Players are really made or broken in tough situations like that,” said Milner, one of five returning senior starters for the Jaguars. “You really see what you’re made of and what you’re teammates are made of in those situations.

“It helped me. I like the pressure. It’s a fun experience whether you do well or do bad.”

More often than not, Central did well. The Jaguars finished 16-5 and won the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail Division II title. Milner, who also plays second base, went 8-1 with a 1.58 ERA and 50 strikeouts. His victories included a no-hitter against Eisenhower and a four-hit shutout against rival Andover.

“He’s just a bulldog for lack of a better word,” Central coach Grant Bacon said. “He refuses to give in.… I think he feels like he can compete with anybody.”

Milner allowed a first-inning run in the state tournament game against Shawnee Heights before matching current Kansas State freshman Jordan Floyd’s two-hit, 10-strikeout performance. Floyd preserved the T-Birds’ 1-0 victory with a game-ending double play, spoiling Central’s first state appearance in three years.

“He was incredible,” said Milner, who has signed to play at Neosho County. “But I think defensively that was one of our best games of the season. An ending like that just makes us even more hungry going into this year.”

Like Milner, senior shortstop Blake Meier has been a regular in the Jaguars’ lineup since his freshman year. First baseman Kier Stamp and outfielder Ryan Banwart are seniors who earned all-league recognition a year ago, while catcher Austin Clark gives Milner and other Central pitchers a familiar face behind the plate.

“We’ve got some great seniors,” Milner said. “They’re great guys who have all put a ton into baseball.”

Bacon is confident his senior group can comprehend his preseason message and relay it to Central’s underclassmen. The Jaguars, who will compete in Class 4A-Division I this spring, open the season April 4 at Newton.

“None of them are done in terms of improving,” Bacon said. “We’ve been trying to hammer that into them. What matters most is what you do each day at practice.

“We have talent, but how are we going to get the most out of that talent?”

AREA BASEBALL PLAYERS TO WATCH

Andale: Tyler Jones, sr.; Clayton Milford, sr.; Phil Savoie, sr.; Kyle Simon, sr.

Andover: Bryant Klusener, sr.; Miles Starks, sr.

Arkansas City: Cam Estrada, sr.; Josh Gurnee, sr.; Bret Grose, jr.

Augusta: Michael Albright, jr.; Mason Hiser, jr.; Garrett Hutson, jr.; Connor Hurst, jr.

Bluestem: Cooper Minnick, jr.; John Stiger, jr.

Buhler: Chase Shantz, jr.; Zac Stiles, jr.; Dillon Engelland, so.; Jace Williams, so.

Campus: John Labelle, sr.; Andrew Shock, sr.; Matthew Johnson, so.

Cedar Vale-Dexter: Kaden Boatman, jr.; Jacody Bratcher, jr.; Colton Massey, jr.

Clearwater: Eric Baughman, sr.; Kyle Robinson, sr.

Collegiate: Max Moxley, sr.; Landon Root, sr.

Derby: Aaron Cheatham, sr.; Christian Cathey, sr.; Derek Newcome, sr.; Garrett Rankin, sr.

Douglass: Chase Banister, sr.; John Gardner, sr.; Rip Fraley, jr.

El Dorado: Easton Smith, sr.; Gage Armstrong, sr.; Spencer Dodson, so.

Eisenhower: Sam Hersh, sr.; Jacob Gibson, jr.; Dalton Dinkel, so.; Braden Minor, so.

Flinthills: Montgomery Moore, sr.; Clay Oates, sr.; Colton Allemand, jr.

Goddard: Conner Kirby, sr.; Leslie Maruo, sr.; Cole Weatherby, sr.

Hillsboro: Jordan Faul, sr.; David Dick, jr.; Jakob Hanschu, jr.

Independent: Mike Kay, sr.; Karson Rowe, sr.; Dominic Rudy, sr.; Tanner Cairns, jr.; Avery Reidmiller, jr.

Inman: Treyton Devore, sr.; Wyatt Regehr, jr.

Maize: Colton Helm, sr.; Brady Hoover, sr.; Drew Johnson, sr.; Seth Troll, sr.; Connor Lungwitz, jr.

Maize South: Hayden Pentecost, sr.; Andrew Sweat, sr.; Anthony Vitale, sr.

McPherson: Austin Mitchell, sr.; Alex Ruxlow, sr.; Brody Burney, so.; Micah McCulley, so.

Moundridge: Hunter Enyart, sr.; Garret Higgins, sr.; Kyle Huxman, sr.

Mulvane: Andrew Berry, sr.; Collin Dempsey, sr.; Trevor Wayman, sr.; Mason LeClair, jr.

Newton: Gunar Drinnen, sr.; Austin Gronau, sr.; Cody Stineman, jr.

Trinity Academy: Josh Palecki, sr.; Jonathan Warnky, sr.; Mitchell List, so.

Udall: Hunter Kistler, jr.; Tanner Roberts, jr.; Alex Perez, so.; Nolan Williams, so.

Valley Center: Braden Holle, sr.; Jason Barbour, jr.; Blake Crager, jr.

Winfield: Clayton Bauer, sr.; Caleb Tapia, sr.; Will Adler, jr.

Word of Life: Dwight Rahming, sr.; Shannon Johnson, jr.; Noah Roberts, so.

AREA SCHEDULE

March

Thursday — Kapaun at Hays, Heights vs. Carroll (West Urban), East vs. North (McAdams), Mulvane at Augusta, McPherson at Rose Hill, Independent at Lakin. Friday — West vs. Northwest (West Urban), Eisenhower at Salina Central. 31 South vs. Kapaun (West Urban), West at Word of Life, McPherson at Andale, Rose Hill at Wellington, Douglass at Kingman, Sedan at Cedar Vale-Dexter.

April

1 — East, Manhattan at Derby triangular, South at Campus, Southeast vs. Heights (McAdams), Winfield at Clearwater, Independent at Lyons, Chase County at Moundridge. 3 – West vs. North (McAdams), Carroll vs. Northwest (West Urban), Goddard at Hutchinson, Rose Hill at Collegiate, Augusta at El Dorado, Wellington at Mulvane, Belle Plaine at Bluestem, Salina Sacred Heart at Trinity Academy. 4 — Garden City at Heights, East vs. Kapaun (West Urban), BV West vs. Maize South at Maize, BV West at Maize, Valley Center at Salina South, Andover Central at Newton, Douglass at Independent, Little River at Hillsboro. 5 – St. James Academy at Maize South, St. James Academy vs. Maize at Maize South. 7 – Andale at Mulvane, McPherson at Winfield, Clearwater at Rose Hill, McPherson at Winfield, Belle Plaine at Douglass, Chaparral at Bluestem, Cedar Vale-Dexter at Udall. 8 — South vs. West (West Urban), North vs. Southeast (West Urban), Goddard at Andover Central, Maize at Derby, Salina South vs. Campus (Plagens-Carpenter Stadium), Eisenhower at Arkansas City, Maize South at Andover, Hutchinson at Salina Central, Newton at Valley Center, Independent at Halstead, Independence at Trinity Academy, Hillsboro at Nickerson, Ell-Saline at Inman, Moundridge at Sedgwick. 10 – Kapaun vs. Carroll (West Urban), Northwest vs. Heights (McAdams), Clearwater at Buhler, Circle at McPherson, Andale at Winfield, Wellington at Augusta, Bluestem at Central-Burden, Chaparral at Douglass, Udall at Cedar Vale-Dexter. 11 – North at Garden City, Dodge City vs. South (West Urban), Andover at Goddard, Andover Central at Eisenhower, Valley Center at Maize South, Newton at Salina South, Campus at Maize, Inman at Little River, Marion at Moundridge. 14 — Southeast at South, Rose Hill at Buhler, Winfield at Mulvane, El Dorado at McPherson, Circle at Clearwater, Collegiate at Augusta, Bluestem at Douglass, Trinity Academy at Independent, Cedar Vale-Dexter at Flinthills. 15 – Northwest vs. North (McAdams), Carroll vs. East (West Urban), Goddard at Eisenhower, Newton at Derby, Valley Center at Andover Central, Campus at Andover, Salina South at Salina Central, Maize South at Arkansas City, Hutchinson at Maize, Hillsboro at Smoky Valley, Ell-Saline at Moundridge. 17 – Kapaun vs. Heights (McAdams), Carroll at South, Arkansas City at Derby, Andover at Newton, Andover Central vs. Campus (Plagens-Carpenter Stadium), Hays at Salina South, Kingman at Hillsboro, Inman at Sedgwick. 18 – Southeast at Dodge City, Maize vs. Northwest (West Urban), West at Sunrise. 21 — Mulvane at Collegiate, Augusta at McPherson, Clearwater at El Dorado, Circle at Rose Hill, Wellington at Winfield, Bluestem at Belle Plaine, Douglass at Trinity Academy, Medicine Lodge at Independent, Cedar Vale-Dexter at Elk Valley. 22 – Kapaun at Eisenhower, North at South, Heights vs. West (West Urban), Carroll at Goddard, Andover, Arkansas City at Hutchinson triangular, Andover Central at Maize South, Salina Central at Maize, Inman at Canton-Galva, Moundridge at Bennington. 24 — Carroll vs. Southeast (West Urban), Buhler at Mulvane, Andale at Clearwater, El Dorado at Winfield, Augusta at Circle, Bluestem at Independent, Cedar Vale-Dexter at Oxford. 25 – Northwest vs. East (West Urban), Olathe South vs. Maize at Lawrence, Hutchinson at Eisenhower, Arkansas City at Goddard, Derby at Salina South, Campus at Newton, Andover at Valley Center, Branson (Mo.) vs. Maize at Lawrence, Douglass at Chaparral, Canton-Galva at Hillsboro, Inman at Moundridge. 28 — Kapaun vs. North (McAdams), Southeast vs. West (West Urban), Mulvane at El Dorado, Buhler at McPherson, Clearwater at Augusta, Rose Hill at Winfield, Belle Plaine at Independent, Chaparral at Trinity Academy, Medicine Lodge at Bluestem, Central-Burden at Cedar Vale-Dexter. 29 – Heights vs. East (West Urban), South vs. Northwest (West Urban), Maize South at Goddard, Valley Center at Eisenhower, Derby at Andover Central, Newton at Hutchinson, Campus at Salina Central, Salina South at Maize, Hillsboro at Sunrise, Bennington at Inman, Canton-Galva at Moundridge.

May

1 — West vs. Carroll (West Urban), Winfield at Buhler, Clearwater at Collegiate, Mulvane at McPherson, El Dorado at Rose Hill, Belle Plaine at Trinity Academy, Douglass at Bluestem, Independent at Chaparral. 2 – Dodge City vs. East (West Urban), Heights at South, Eisenhower at Maize South, Derby at Campus, Hutchinson at Salina South, Andover Central at Andover, Salina Central at Newton, Arkansas City at Valley Center, Hillsboro at Pratt, Inman at Marion, Moundridge at Little River. 5 – Northwest vs. Kapaun (West Urban), East vs. Southeast (West Urban), Salina Central at Derby, Augusta at Andale, Medicine Lodge at Douglass, Trinity Academy at Bluestem, Moundridge at Inman, Cedar Vale-Dexter at West Elk. 6 – Eisenhower at Andover, Arkansas City at Andover Central, Maize at Newton, Hutchinson at Campus, Goddard at Valley Center, Haven at Hillsboro, Moundridge at Inman. 8 – East vs. West (West Urban), Kapaun vs. Southeast (West Urban), North vs. Heights (McAdams), Rose Hill at Mulvane, Maize South at Augusta, Wellington at Clearwater, Bluestem at Chaparral, Trinity Academy at Medicine Lodge. 9 – Northwest, Hutchinson, Olathe East at BV West quad, North, Valley Center at Campus triangular (Plagens-Carpenter Stadium), Carroll at Maize, Goddard at Hays tournament, Andover Central, Maize South, Winfield at Emporia tournament, McPherson at Salina South, Hillsboro at Halstead. 10 – Goddard at Hays tournament, Andover Central, Maize South, Winfield at Emporia tournament 12 — West vs. Kapaun (West Urban), Augusta at Buhler, Mulvane at Circle, Trinity Academy at Clearwater, Andale at Rose Hill, El Dorado at Valley Center, Independent at Sedgwick, Inman at Salina Sacred Heart. 13 – Heights at Dodge City, South vs. East (West Urban), North vs. Carroll (West Urban), McPherson at Salina Central, Derby at Hutchinson, Campus at Maize, Salina South at Maize South, Arkansas City at Winfield, Douglass at Belle Plaine, Lyons at Hillsboro, Herington at Inman. 14 – Southeast vs. Northwest (West Urban). 15 – Carroll, Newton at Eisenhower triangular, Winfield at Arkansas City, Maize at Hutchinson, Trinity Academy at Collegiate. 16 – Dodge City at Derby, Southeast vs. Garden City at Derby, Southeast at Derby. 19-22 — Regionals. 29-30 — State tournaments.