By Jim Misunas
LARNED — The Larned American Legion baseball team trailed Russell 6-0.
Larned stormed back from a six-run deficit for an 11-6 victory over Russell that clinched a berth in the Class AA American Legion State Baseball Tournament. Larned qualifies for the Class AA State Tournament at Wathena July 30-Aug. 3.
Larned (13-14) won four consecutive games in the Zone 2 Tournament at Moffet Stadium.
John Herter keyed Larned’s comeback with a bases-loaded triple in the fourth inning. Tyler Stelter delivered a two-run single to ignite a five-run third inning. Larned scored 25 runs with 31 hits in two wins over Russell.
“We were excited the way we hit the baseball,” said Larned Legion coach Chad Erway. “In the Zone, baseball finally became a priority and a focus. That focus sharpened our game. We beat pretty good teams in the Zone Tournament. Our young players, Gage Skelton and John Herter, really came through for us. Our goal is to be competitive and build a solid baseball program.”
Larned’s sweep over Russell in the Zone Tournament avenged a 5-2 loss to Russell May 19 in the Class 4A baseball regional championship.
Larned starter Trey Kraisinger yielded five first-inning runs as Russell’s first seven batters reached base safely. Russell had five hits, a walk and Larned committed three errors. Russell’s Mason Beagley, Javon Parker and Nick Flynn drove in runs.
Larned third baseman Camryn Bryant made a big play when he threw out Parker, who was thrown out of the game for not sliding at home on ball hit by Taylor Corley. Kraisinger retired two more batters to strand two baserunners. Flynn scored in the third inning on an error for a 6-0 Russell lead for the second straight game.
“We had one bad inning. We came out and kicked it around, but I told the guys — we’ve been here before,” Erway said. “Trey Krasinger was pitching to contact, but we didn’t make a couple of defensive plays. We finally got that inning over. We came out tight. Thankfully, we rebounded from that start.”
In the third inning, Evan Skelton and Isaiah Perez walked and Landon Erway singled to load the bases. Stelter singled home Skelton and Perez. Gage Skelton and Herter delivered run-scoring singles to slice the lead to 6-5 off starter Chase Prester.
“We knew if we’d get their starter out, they were not deep in pitching,” Erway said. “Being behind did not affect us. The experience of coming from behind the night before helped us.”
In the fourth inning, Perez walked and Erway singled. Stelter drove in Perez with a single off Prester. Camryn Bryant walked. Gage Skelton singled home Erway. Herter’s triple to right field off reliever Taylor Corley scored Stelter, Bryant and Gage Skelton for a 10-6 lead.
“Getting the first five runs was big because it was new ballgame,” Erway said. “We kept the momentum after that. We got their starter out and drove the baseball. Herter’s triple was the big base hit.”
Erway said Herter made a slight adjustment when the coaches saw he was moving his head too much.
“John made an adjustment and settled his head plane,” Erway said. “He’s been right on the baseball.”
RUSSELL 9, HOISINGTON 6 — Russell rallied from a 4-3 with six runs in the final three innings. Logan Braun, Taylor Rome delivered RBI singles in the fifth inning off losing pitcher Hunter Hanzlick. Brady Dinkel and Rome drove in sixth-inning runs.
Hanzlick’s two-run double keyed a three-run Hoisington fourth inning off starter Nick Jackson. Hoisington rallied in the seventh inning when Brad Reif singled home Colton Zink and Trent Schremmer forced Jacob Warnken home on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch. But reliever Brady Dinkel retired Hanzlick with two out and the bases loaded.
Class AA Zone 2
Larned 15, Pratt Skyline 0
Russell 3, Hoisington 2
Larned 5, Hays Monarchs 4
Hoisington 21, Pratt Skyline 0
Hoisington 5, Hays Monarchs 4
Larned 14, Russell 9
Russell 9, Hoisington 6
Larned 11, Russell 6
Larned 11, Russell 6
Russell 501 000 0 — 6 7 3
Larned 005 501 x — 11 12 5
Chase Prester, Taylor Corley (4) and Taylor Rome. Trey Kraisinger and Tyler Stelter. W—Kraisinger. L—Prester. 2B—Russell, Brady Dinkel, Dylan Braun, Javon Parker. 3B—Larned, John Herter.
Loser’s bracket final
Russell 9, Hoisington 6
Russell 102 032 1 — 9 8 1
Hoisington 100 300 2 — 6 10 5
Nick Jackson, Brady Dinkel (5) and Dylan Braun. Hunter Hanzlick, Jacob Warnken (5) and Warnken, Colton Zink (5). W—Dinkel. L—Hanzlick. 2B—Russell, Dylan Braun; Hois, Trent Schremmer, Hunter Hanzlick.