By Jim Misunas
LARNED — Larned’s American Legion baseball team wrote another chapter to a run to the Class AA State Tournament Monday night at Moffet Stadium.
Evan Skelton drilled a go-ahead three-run homer as Larned rallied from an 8-2 deficit to stun Russell 14-9. Monday’s rally avenged a 5-2 loss to Russell May 19 in the Class 4A baseball regional championship.
“That’s one of the best comebacks I’ve ever seen for Larned baseball,” said Larned Legion coach Chad Erway. “But we’ve still got work to do.”
Larned (12-14) advances to Tuesday’s championship round after sweeping three consecutive games in the Zone 2 Tournament. Larned delivered eight extra-base hits and 19 hits against Russell.
The Indians will play the Russell-Hoisington winner at 8 p.m. Tuesday. A second championship game, if needed, would be played at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The winner of the Larned Zone 2 Tournament qualifies for the Class AA State Tournament at Wathena July 30-Aug. 3.
Larned starter Evan Skelton yielded six runs, five unearned, as the Indians committed five errors in Russell’s six-run third inning. Russell’s Nick Flynn, Chase Prester, Logan Braun and Taylor Rome drove in runs in the third inning. Relief pitcher Camryn Bryant held Russell to one run over the final four innings after facing six batters in the third inning.
“Camryn threw hard in the mid 80s, and got the job done,” Erway said.
Coach Erway didn’t like his team’s body language coming off the field and wanted them to understand they could rally.
“We had a few hiccups defensively and I was upset,” he said. “I gave them some constructive criticism. I wanted them to act like they wanted to win. They responded really well.”
Down 8-2, Larned rallied with a seven-run fifth inning, keyed by Evan Skelton’s three-run homer. Evan Skelton drove in four runs.
Isaiah Perez and Landon Erway started the fifth inning with singles and Camryn Bryant walked. Gage Skelton singled home Perez. John Herter doubled home Erway and Bryant. Skelton scored on an error and Skelton’s three-run homer off reliever Logan Braun gave Larned a 9-8 lead.
“Evan made a great swing on a 2-2 curveball. Internally, I was excited, but you can’t get too high because there was still a lot of baseball left,” Erway said. “I kept my composure and we kept on chopping wood.”
Gage Skelton’s two-run double drove in Erway and Bryant in a two-run sixth inning for an 11-9 lead. Larned iced the outcome with a three-run seventh. Schartz and Evan Skelton delivered back-to-back doubles. Erway’s single drove home Evan Skelton. Bryant’s double drove home Erway for a 14-9 lead.
Landon Erway had four hits. Gage Skelton drove in three runs with three hits. John Herter had two hits and two runs batted in. Larned played without starters Brayden Smith and Trey Kraisinger, who were unavailable due to other commitments.
“That’s the first time and the best we hit the ball one through nine,” coach Erway said. “Our young guys Jon Herter. Gage Shelton and Mason Schartz really stepped up offensively.”
HOISINGTON 5, HAYS 4 — Colton Zink drilled a three-run homer as Hoisington eliminated the top-seeded Hays Monarchs 5-4. Hays finishes with a 17-7 record.
Zink doubled home Terry Crawford in the first inning. Kody Lang walked and Hunter Hanzlick reached on an error in the third inning. Crawford singled home Lang. Zink drilled a three-run homer to left field for a 5-1 lead.
Justin Pfeifer’s two-run fourth-inning triple made it 5-3. Kameron Schmidt scored in the sixth inning.
Hoisington starter Crawford worked five innings. Relief pitcher Jacob Warnken retired Braiden Werth and Richard Hockett on fly balls after Jordan Gottschalk’s seventh-inning double.
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
5:30 p.m.—Hoisington vs. Russell
8 p.m. —Larned vs. Hoisington-Russell winner
Winner’s bracket final
Larned 14, Russell 9
Larned 002 072 3 — 14 19 5
Russell 116 010 0 — 9 10 2
Evan Skelton, Camryn Bryant (3) and Tyler Stelter. Brandon Ridgley, Logan Braun (5) and Taylor Rome. W—Bryant. L—Ridgley. 2B—L, John Herter 2, Evan Skelton 2, Mason Schartz, Gage Skelton, Camryn Bryant; R, Logan Braun. HR—L, Evan Skelton.
Loser’s bracket final
Hoisington 5, Hays 4
Hays 010 201 0 — 4 5 1
Hoisington 104 000 x — 5 9 1
Liam Stultz, Kameron Schmidt (4) and Jordan Gottschalk. Terry Crawford, Jacob Warnken (6) and Colton Zink. W—Crawford. L—Stultz. 2B—Hays, Jordan Gottschalk; Hois, Trent Schremmer, Zink. 3B—Hays, Justin Pfeifer; Hois, Hunter Hanzlick. HR—Hois, Colton Zink.