By Jim Misunas
WATHENA — Not much has changed for the Larned American Legion baseball team. Larned (13-14) will be the underdog against Sabetha in the Class AA State Tournament at 3:30 p.m. today at Wathena.
The Larned ballgame will be broadcast on the Internet on 103.9 KNZA-FM (mscsports.net) along with Doniphan County games during the state tournament in Wathena.
Larned surprised the top-seeded Hays Monarchs 5-4 and second-seeded Russell 14-9 and 11-6 to capture the Zone 2 championship with a 4-0 record. Larned overcame six-run deficits in both games against Russell. Russell ended Larned’s high school season with a 5-2 regional championship victory.
“When you play well at the end of the season, it’s a reward for your team because of the hard work they’ve invested,” said Larned Legion coach Chad Erway. “When we beat Russell, it was sweet redemption.”
Erway will pitch Trey Kraisinger or Isiah Perez in game one with Evan Skelton also targeted to start a game.
“I am going to gather as much information about Sabetha before we decide who to pitch,” Erway said. “To be successful, you have to throw your best arms.”
Larned will start 1B John Herter; 2B Landon Erway or Isiah Perez; SS Perez or Erway; 3B Camryn Bryant; C Tyler Stelter; and OF Trey Kraisinger, Schartz, Gage Skelton or Evan Skelton.
“Our young guys have really matured and gotten the job done,” Erway said.
Erway felt confident because Larned had played Great Bend and Hays teams during the summer.
“We hit the ball well in the Zone Tournament. It worked to our advantage because we played a good schedule,” Erway said. “This is a team that stays even keeled and plays steady baseball. If we do that, we’ll be successful.”
Erway said Silver Lake and Ottawa are traditionally strong baseball programs.
Larned scored 45 runs in four Zone games. But Larned yielded 15 runs in its final two games and committed a few errors that led to big innings.
“If we come in and throw strikes and continue to get timely hitting, we’ll be in the game,” Erway said. “We don’t want to give up any big innings defensively.”
Larned tuned up for the state tournament with a nine-inning game against the Class AA Hays Legion team.
“Our starters threw a couple of innings and our batters faced good pitching,” Erway said. “It was just what we needed.”
Sabetha captured the Zone 5 tournament and head into the State tournament with a 27-15 record. The Sabetha Raptors will be participating in the state tournament for the sixth time in the last eight years.
CLASS AA AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL
1 p.m.—Silver Lake vs. Concordia 26-5
3:30 p.m.—Larned 13-14 vs. Sabetha 27-15
6 p.m.—Ottawa vs. Ellis
8:30 p.m.—Doniphan County 22-9 vs. Fort Scott
Losers bracket DH—10 a.m.
Winners bracket DH—6 p.m.