BY JIM MISUNAS
HUTCHINSON – Great Bend Bat Cats coach Roger Ward has seen a lot of baseball and still didn't believe what happened.
The Bat Cats were one out away from beating the Dodge City A's at the NBC Midwest Baseball Regional. Three hit batters and a double later, the Bat Cats' season was in jeopardy with Dodge City up 5-4.
Former Barton Cougar Micah Grover rode to the rescue. Grover alertly stole second base to help set up the tying run. He slipped a fingertip on home plate a split second before a forceout by catcher Matt Mandeville on a Kyle Gates groundball for the game-winning run.
The Bat Cats survived 6-5, triggering a walkoff celebration for the second consecutive day. The Bat Cats (27-14) play the Derby Twins (23-20) at 4 p.m. Sunday at Hobart-Detter Field. The winner will likely clinch a NBC World Series berth.
"Third-base coach Jon Mariani told me to get ready, we're going home," Grover said. "When I saw that groundball, I took off. I had to get my hand in there."
Red-hot supersub Jordan Maxson ignited the ninth-inning rally with a leadoff double. Grover followed with a single.
Grover stole second base on his own, figuring Connor Allen would see a two-strike curveball, which bounced in the dirt. Allen fouled off five pitches and drew a nine-pitch walk on a checked swing to load the bases. Reliever Kyle Tinnius hit Tyler Henry with a pitch that scored Maxson for a 5-5 tie.
Dodge City first baseman Doyle Kane relayed a Gates topped grounder to home a split second late for the forceout.
"We showed heart and the will to win in the ninth inning," Grover said.
Ward said Grover's attention to detail helped win the ballgame.
"Micah Grover has amazing instincts as a baserunner," Ward said. "He had a great secondary lead and a nice start off third base. "These guys are having fun playing postseason baseball. They kept competing at the plate. Whatever we're doing as a baseball team, we need to keep it up."
Bat Cats starter Gyeongju Kim yielded one run in eight brilliant innings with 113 pitches in 100-degree heat. Jack Bollengier scored a first-inning run on Gabriel Irvin's first-inning groundout.
Maxson singled home Zane Spinn in the first inning and Connor Allen scored on a second-inning error for a 2-1 lead. Alex Rodgers singled home Kyle Gates and Noah Best singled in Rodgers for a 4-1 lead after eight innings.
But the Bat Cats' bullpen imploded.
Dodge City's Doyle Kane singled home Mikey Kane and reliever Spencer Maley hit Nathan Ade with a ninth-inning pitch. Reliever Payton Tinkler hit Ramirez and Brett Graber with his first two pitches. Bollengier's double scored Ade and pinch runner Griffin Williams for a shocking 5-4 lead.
Maybe Tinkler (2-0) is the Bat Cats' latest good luck charm. He earned back-to-back wins despite hitting two batters and yielding the go-ahead double.
Maize South graduate Maxson continued to impress with nine hits in three Midwest Regional games.
Dodge City 100 000 004 – 5 6 2
GB Bat Cats 110 000 022 – 6 13 2
Serrano, Speer (7), Tinnius (9) and Olasco, Ramirez (7), Mandeville (9). Kim, Maley (9), Tinkler (9) and Allen. W–Tinkler, 2-0. L–Tinnius. 2B–GB–Allen, Maxson; DC–Bollengier 2, Mikey Kane. 3B–DC–Arellano.
2021 MIDWEST REGIONAL
HUTCHINSON, HOBART DETTER
7-29–G2–Haysville Aviators 9, Great Bend Bat Cats 4; G1—Dodge City A’s 6, Derby Twins 5; G3—Cheney Diamond Dawgs 3, Hutchinson Monarchs 2
7-30—G6—Bat Cats 9, Hutchinson Monarchs 8; G4—Wichita Sluggers 3, Dodge City A's 2; G5–Cheney 5, Haysville Aviators 2
7-31–G7–Bat Cats 6, Dodge City A's 5; G8–Derby Twins 7, Haysville Aviators 3; G9–Wichita Sluggers 6, Cheney 3
8-1–G10–Derby Twins 7, Bat Cats 5; G11–Cheney 10, Derby 0
8-2–G12–Wichita Sluggers (27-16) vs. Cheney (26-16), 5 p.m.; G13–(if needed) Winner G12 vs. loser G12