BY JIM MISUNAS
WICHITA – Great Bend Bat Cats pitcher Chayse Gruber threw four shutout innings to spark a 4-2 victory over Tulsa, Okla. in Friday's 2023 NBC Baseball World Series. Gruber (4-0) used an effective fastball and slider to retire 12 consecutive batters with five strikeouts, keyed by a double-play groundball converted by shortstop Jaron Cotton and second baseman JoJo Nieves.
Great Bend native Gruber mixed effective changeups and curveballs with his fastball.
"My off-speed pitches were working, so I worked ahead with breaking pitches and worked in my fastball," Gruber said. "All my pitches were in the zone today."
Pitching on the NBC stage didn't bother Gruber.
"NBC is a cool atmosphere, but I tell myself the game doesn't change," he said. "I expect the best and trust my defense. If something happens, you've got to pitch through it."
The Bat Cats required quality pitching after stranding nine baserunners in scoring position.
Starter Schoneboom (94 mph), Tyrus Riley (90 mph) and Gruber (87 mph) combined to hold Tulsa to one hit in 92-degree heat. Riley employed a split-finger pitch and struck out the side to earn a ninth-inning save.
"It was pretty nice to ride it out with pitching and defense," said Bat Cats coach Jonathan Mariani. "There was never a doubt. These guys find a way to win."
Schoneboom earned five Bat Cat saves, but he wanted to start a game.
"Kevin has an inning-limit, but he's earned the right to start," Mariani said. "Gruber is comfortable in his role. He's effective when the game gets going."
Great Bend roared to a 3-0 first-inning lead. Kade Snodgrass doubled home Robby Bolin. Marshall Hale singled home Snodgrass. Grant Nottlemann scored on Brady Kreutzer's double. Nottlemann tripled and scored on a third-inning wild pitch for a 4-0 lead.
After the fast start, the Bat Cats had chances to put the game away, but they batted 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position after the first inning.
"That was frustrating, but we found a way to win," Mariani said.
Tulsa scored two unearned runs against Schoneboom. Errors by Nieves and third baseman Snodgrass allowed Noah Smallwood and Jackson Smith to score fourth-inning runs.
The Bat Cats (28-11) play at 8:30 p.m. Sunday against three-time defending NBC champion Santa Barbara, Foresters (23-9)
Three teams from each pool advance to bracket play, which starts Aug. 9. The top team from each pool earns a bye. Quarterfinals are scheduled Aug. 10, semifinals Aug. 11, and the championship Aug. 12.
Tulsa, Okla. 000 200 000 – 2 1 1
GB Bat Cats 301 000 00x – 4 8 3
Grigg, Roe (4), Cameron Ebert (6) and Horn. Schoneboom, Gruber (5), Riley (9) and Nottlemann. W–Gruber, 4-0. L–Grigg. 2B–GB–Kreutzer, Snodgrass. 3B–GB–Nottlemann.
2023 NBC WORLD SERIES, WICHITA
12-TEAM BRACKET WEDNESDAY
Lonestar, Texas 19, Arlington Baptist 3
3 p.m.—Liberal (29-12) vs. Denver Cougars (19-19)
6 p.m.—Hays Larks (39-7) vs. Dallas, Kraken, Texas (12-7)
9 p.m.—Bat Cats (29-12) vs. Seattle Blackfins (20-14)
Kansas Cannons (27-13) vs. Hays Larks/Dallas Kraken winner
Hutchinson Monarchs (23-17) vs. Lonestar, Texas
Santa Barbara (32-10) vs. Liberal/Denver Cougars winner
Seattle Studs (21-20) vs. Bat Cats/Seattle Blackfins winner
POOL A (x-top 3 qualify)—x-Kansas Cannons (2-1, 18-4); x-Lonestar, Texas (2-1, 9-3); x-Denver Cougars (2-1, 14-9); Sedgwick County Blues (0-3); THURSDAY—Cannons 8, Denver Cougars 1; Lonestar, Texas 5, Sedgwick County Blues 0; SATURDAY—Denver Cougars 11, Sedgwick County 0; Lonestar 3, Kansas Cannons 1; MONDAY—Denver Cougars 2, Lonestar, Texas 1; Kansas Cannons 9, Sedgwick County Blues 0
POOL C (x-top 3 qualify)—x-Seattle Studs (2-1, 20-12); x-Liberal (2-1, 27-18); x-Arlington Baptist (1-2, 18-24); D-Bat Collegiate (1-2, 14-25); THURSDAY—Arlington Baptist, Texas 9, D-Bat Collegiate 5; Seattle Studs 10, Liberal 2; SATURDAY—Liberal 12, D-Bat Collegiate 4; Seattle Studs 6, Arlington Baptist 5; MONDAY—D-Bat Collegiate 5, Seattle 4; Liberal 13, Arlington Baptist 3
POOL B (x-top 3 qualify)—x-Santa Barbara (3-0, 27-8); x-Great Bend Bat Cats (2-1, 26-15); x-Dallas, Kraken, Texas (1-2, 18-36); Tulsa, Okla (0-3, 15-26); Lonestar Kraken, Texas 0; FRIDAY—Bat Cats 4, Tulsa 2; Santa Barbara 11, Lonestar 0; SUNDAY—Santa Barbara 5, Great Bend 4; Lonestar Kraken 11, Tulsa 9; TUESDAY—Santa Barbara 11,. Tulsa 4; Great Bend 17, Dallas Kraken 8
POOL D (x-top 3 qualify)—x-Hutchinson Monarchs (3-0, 30-16), x-Hays Larks (2-1, 25-10); x-Seattle Blackfins (1-2, 9-30), Round Rock, Texas (0-3, 14-21), FRIDAY—Seattle Blackfins 6, Round Rock, Texas 2; Hutchinson 6, Hays 4, 11 innings; SUNDAY—Hays 5, Round Rock 2; Hutchinson Monarchs 12, Seattle Blackfins 1; TUESDAY—Hutchinson 12, Round Rock, Texas 11; Seattle Blackfins
HUTCHINSON MONARCHS 12, SEATTLE BLACKFINS 1
Hutchinson clinched a bye in the 12-team bracket. Max Buettenback drilled a 3-run homer and 2-run triple. Cooper Harris and Sam Wiese each drove home two runs.
Brady Pacha struck out eight batters in six innings.
Trent Baker tripled home Payton Ebbing and Luis Garcia in the second inning. Lenny Ashby homered in the third inning. Austin Love scored on Garcia's groundout. Garcia singled home Austen Jaslove.
Luke ter Beek struck out five batters in 52/3 innings.
Lonestar's Josh Livingston drove home four runs with three hits and Cade Tucker and Juhlien Gonzalez drove home two runs.
Lonestar (19-2) secured a berth in the World Series bracket with a 3-1 victory over the Kansas Cannons (26-13). Lonestar pitcher John Gonzales worked 52/3 shutout innings with four strikeouts. A trio of relievers led by E.J. Garcia finished the game.
Andre Jackson singled home Rodrick Black. Til Naile scored on a wild pitch. Keaton Grady drove home Parker Collier.
Liberal's Mateo Garcia, Hudson Polk, River Jackson and Colden Kiser each drove home two runs to spark the Bee Jays. Walker Polk, Ryota Kusomoto and Owen May drove in runs. Luke Wilkerson earned the victory.
Denver starter Austin Wagner struck out nine batters and reliever Walker Emmons completed a 5-inning perfect game by retiring three batters. Judah Wilbur drove home three runs and Jonathan Gonzales, Brady Webb and Mike Bathhauer each drove home two runs.
SANTA BARBARA 10, LONESTAR, TEXAS 0
Santa Barbara's Greg Pace and shortstop Jalin Flores each scored runs. Will Rogers, Eamonn Lance, and Miguel Santos contributed with timely hits and RBIs to help secure the victory.
Foresters' pitcher Zane Petty threw six scoreless innings and struck out six batters.
The Hutchinson Monarchs stunned last year’s NBC World Series runner-up Hays Larks 6-4 after rallying from a 4-0 deficit. Hays (37-7) was 30-0 leading after six innings.
The Monarchs (21-17) scored four runs in the eighth and ninth innings and added two 11th-inning runs.
Hutchinson’s final pitcher Derick Johnson, headed to Fort Hays State, ended the Larks’ hopes by recording the final three outs. Reed Scott (2-1) pitched two scoreless innings to earn the win.
Hutchinson was down to its final out when Caleb Cotton’s double was misplayed by left fielder Damian Ruiz and a weak cutoff throw allowed Blake Bradford to score from first for a 4-4 tie.
The Monarchs’ Cotton doubled home the go-ahead run and Hutchinson added a sacrifice fly for a 6-4 lead. Jaden Gustafson's 2-run double ignited a 3-run eighth inning.
Brady Evans doubled home a run and Luis Garcia added a sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead. Tyler LaRue and Garrett Gruell added RBI seventh inning hits.
The Larks left the bases loaded the bases in the eighth and 10th innings.
Jett Lodes (3-1) allowed three runs and took the loss for Hays. Starter Tyler Schott struck out nine batters in six innings.
Friday's loss was marked the first time the Larks have dropped their NBC World Series opener since 2012 when they fell 2-1 to the Greeley, Colo. Grays.
SEATTLE BLACKFINS 7, GPS LEGENDS 3
The Blackfins scored a first inning run, added three second-inning runs and a third inning run for a 5-0 lead. Blackfins' starter Ian Roemer permitted two runs while striking out three. Reliever Kolby Wheadon allowed one run on two hits.
Legends' starting pitcher Danny Valadez yielded five runs.
Offensively, the Blackfins were led by their shortstop, Jeffries, who scored two runs and drew a walk. Kaufman, Herko, and Snyder also contributed with timely hits and runs scored.
For the Legends, Rucker had a good game at the plate, going 2-for-4, while Mazoch, Mendoza, and Valdez each had an RBI.
The Cannons' offense was firing on all cylinders, amassing 13 hits and capitalizing on scoring opportunities. Jacob Wagner and Henry Jansen led the charge, each with 2 RBIs. Wagner showcased his power with a double, while Jansen also had a double and a single.
On the pitching side, Gunner VanDeventer delivered a solid start for the Cannons, going 7 innings and giving up only 1 run. He controlled the game with five strikeouts and limited the Cougars to five hits.
The Cougars struggled to gain momentum against the Cannons' pitching and defense. Starting pitcher Dylan Stuart had a tough outing, allowing 4 runs in 3.2 innings. Despite the efforts of the Cougars' offense, they couldn't generate enough runs to compete with the Cannons' offensive output.
The Cannons' defense was also stellar, making several crucial plays to support their pitching staff. They turned three double plays and made the most of their opportunities.
SEATTLE STUDS 10, LIBERAL BEE JAYS 2
The Seattle Studs dominated the Liberal Bee Jays with a convincing 10-2 victory.
The Studs got off to a strong start, scoring 2 runs in the first inning and keeping the momentum going throughout the game. They displayed an impressive offensive performance with 12 hits and taking advantage of the Bee Jays' pitching struggles. Max Murashige and Braydon Schnurman were particularly impactful with 2 RBIs each.
On the pitching side, Studs' starter Sam Callegari delivered an outstanding performance, going 8 innings, allowing only 2 runs, and striking out 2 batters. He controlled the game and kept the Bee Jays' offense in check, giving his team a comfortable lead.
The Bee Jays faced challenges both offensively and defensively. Liberal's pitcher, Trevor Crusenberry, had a tough outing, allowing 4 runs.
Hayden Polk drove in two RBIs.
LONESTAR TEXAS 5, SEDGWICK COUNTY BLUES 0
Lonestar pitcher Zach Tjelmeland struck out 11 batters in 5-innings. Four relievers completed the 2-hit shutout. Andre Jackson, Keaton Grady, Tony DeJesus and Jamie Richey drove home runs.
ARLINGTON BAPTIST 9, D-BAT COLLEGIATE 5
Arlington Baptist scored four seventh-inning runs to take command. Lucas Wilkerson's homered and drove home three runs. Fernando Ochoa drilled a 2-run double. Major Cantrell and Jaxson Evans drove home runs. Patriots' pitcher Charlie Torti struck out six batters.
J.J. Garcia led D-Bat with 3 hits and 2 runs scored.