It’s rare when a defensive gem sparks the offense.
Great Bend Bat Cat shortstop Matthew Mendez started a dazzling double play with second baseman JoJo Nieves on a Derrick Lukes third-inning groundball.
After trailing 3-1, the Bat Cats outscored Liberal 5-0 for a hard-fought 6-3 victory Wednesday over the perennial powerhouse Liberal BeeJays in 103-degree heat.
The Bat Cats answered with a 3-run third inning. Armani Raygoza reached on an error and scored on a passed ball. Jackson Webster scored on a wild pitch, Mendez singled home Grant Nottlemann for a 4-3 lead off Liberal starter Ryder Slaton.
Great Bend’s relievers Brett Allen, Chayse Gruber, Bryan Bartles and Kevin Schoneboom combined for seven shutout innings after a shaky start by starter Kyle Winkler. At one point, the Bat Cats retired 14 of 15 Liberal batters.
Liberal’s Luke Rhee, Colden Kiser and Owen May loaded the bases with ninth-inning singles. But Schoneboom rallied by retiring Riota Kusumoto on a fly ball and striking out Walker Polk on a 3-2 count.
The showdown between the Bat Cats (27-10) and Liberal (26-11) showcased two teams which have qualified for the 2023 NBC Baseball World Series. The teams will play again Thursday at Al Burns Memorial Field.
Liberal’s Mateo Garcia singled home Owen May and Kusumoto scored on a first-inning error for a 2-0 lead. Webster singled home Robby Bolin after an error, passed ball and stolen base.
Kusumoto singled home Kiser for a 3-1 lead when Mendez swung the momentum with a highlight play.
Great Bend added two insurance runs. Isaiah Ural scored on Nottlemann’s fourth-inning groundball. Nick Parton doubled home Raygoza, who reached base four consecutive times for a 6-3 lead.
Liberal 210 000 000 – 3 8 4
GB Bat Cats 103 101 00x – 6 9 0
Slaton, Martinez (4), Kappelmann (7) and Lukes. Winkler, Brett Allen (3), Gruber (5), Bartels (7), Schoneboom (9) and Nottlemann. W—Allen, 4-2. L—Slaton. SV—Schoneboom. 2B—GB—Parton; L—Garcia, Husovsky.
JAYHAWK 2ND HALF 1ST HALF OVERALL
Kansas Cannons 10-3 12-6 23-12
Hutchinson Monarchs 10-4 7-11 18-15
Great Bend Bat Cats 6-4 15-3 27-10
Haysville Aviators 7-7 9-9 16-19
Kingman Islanders 5-7 3-15 14-24
Derby Twins 5-8 9-9 18-17
Newton Rebels 1-11 8-10 10-22
7-26—Bat Cats 6, Liberal 3; Cannons 11, Aviators 6; Monarchs 13, Islanders 0
7-27—Liberal at Bat Cats; Twins at Rebels; Monarchs at Islanders; Cannons at Aviators
7-28—Aviators at Cannons; Rebels at Twins; Monarchs at Islanders
7-29—Monarchs at Twins
7-30—Jayhawk second half at Bat Cats, 6 p.m.