HAYS — Great Bend Braves baseball coach Travis Kurth will enjoy the double excitement of leading an American Legion baseball program into the state tournament after previously playing for a state champion.
Kinsley native Kurth played on the 1990 American Legion Class AA state champion at Larned. The team featured players from Rozel and St. John when organizers Mark Bauer and Kelly Patterson re-established Larned’s summer program in 1989.
The Great Bend Braves (26-13) will get a quick chance for revenge against the Olathe Royals (33-5), which placed fourth in 2016. The Royals eliminated Great Bend 8-2 in last year’s A state tournament at the Great Bend Sports Complex. The Salina Hawks placed third with a 10-2 victory over Olathe.
“If we play to our capability, we’re confident we can play with any team,” Kurth said. “Our common thread is our players are good teammates who have invested a lot of hard work. They’ve stepped up when they’re given an opportunity.”
The Braves downed McPherson 11-9 and 12-3 to capture a state berth. The Braves’ key victory was a 17-16 comeback from a 16-8 deficit against Pratt when Calan Haberman, Townshend Kurth, Colin Hall and Jesus Bujanda reached base with the Braves down to their last out.
“We were down for 61/2 innings, but that taught the players you’re never out of a game,” Kurth said. “That definitely propelled us beating Pratt. Our hitters make pitchers throw strikes and work to hit a certain pitch. Our offense will scores runs. We feature some great hitters who set the table and others who drive them in.”
Townshend Kurth (10/14, .714), Jesus Bujanda (8/15, .533), Eduardo Bujanda (9/17, .529) and Hall (4/8, .500) all batted over .500 in the final four games.
The Braves averaged 17 runs per game, but yielded seven runs per game with erratic pitching. Reliever Eduardo Bujanda stranded the bases loaded in his last three innings.
“Our biggest issue is getting the pitchers to throw strikes consistently,” Kurth said. “But even when a pitcher like Eduardo Bujanda didn’t work his best stuff, but showed his toughness by striking out a few batters and recording outs.”
The Braves will pitch without Eduardo Bujanda, Jesus Bujanda and Townshend Kurth against Olathe, a drawback for Buhler scheduling the Zone Tournament a week after the other three zones.
“We’ve followed the pitch-count rules closely in the best interest of the players,” Kurth said.
AMERICAN LEGION A STATE
Game 1, 1 p.m.—Great Bend Braves 26-13 vs. Olathe Royals 33-5
Game 2, 3:30 p.m.—Salina Hawks 18-16 vs. Andover Jaquars
Game 3, 6 p.m.—Andover Trojans vs. Chapman 11-5
Game 4, 8:30 p.m.—Hays Eagles 13-17 vs. Emporia 21-1
Game 5, 10 a.m.—Losers games 1, 2
Game 6, 12:30 p.m.—Losers games 3, 4
Game 7, 6 p.m.—Winners games 1, 2
Game 8, 8:30 p.m.—Winners games 3, 4
Game 9, 10 a.m.—Winner game 5 vs. loser game 8
Game 10, 12:30 p.m.—Winner game 6 vs. loser game 7
Game 11, 6 p.m.—Winners bracket final, winners 7, 8
Game 12, 8:30 p.m.—Winners games 9, 10
Game 13, 10 a.m.—Losers bracket final, winner game 12 vs. loser game 11
Game 14, 12:30 p.m.—Winners game 11, 13
Game 15, 10 a.m.—Winner game 14 vs. loser game 14 (if needed)
GREAT BEND BRAVES ROSTER
1—Joey Soupiset, RP-3B
3—Cal Kaiser, 2B-CF-LF
8—Calan Haberman, RP-RF-CF
9—Riley Smith, RP-2B-D-LF
10—Christian Zahnter, RP-SS
13—Colin Hall, RP-C-3B-RF
14—Nahum Olivas, 2B-LF-RF
24—Eduardo Bujanda, RP-1B-C
28—Jayce Christiansen, RP-2B-RF-CF
33—Townshend Kurth, RP-SS
42—Dalton Barfield, RP-1B-C
35—Jesus Bujanda, RF
Coaches—Travis Kurth, Darrin Hall
2017 GREAT BEND BRAVES (26-13)
WW—Russell 13-3, 14-3
LW—Chanute 2-8; Kansas Senators 10-2
LW—Emporia 1-2; Mound City 10-9
WW—Hays 11-9, 10-8
WW—Cunningham 17-0, 36-2
WW—Dodge City 5-4, 8-2
WL—Pratt 13-8, 5-13
WWWWL—Braves Classic (Russell 10-2, Salina Hawks 9-1, Hutchinson 8-2, Russell 11-4, Salina Hawks 5-16)
LL—Hays 7-9, 14-15
WW—Kinsley 14-0, 12-2
LLLL—Chiefs Classic (Colts 0-4, Russell 8-11, Pratt 9-10, Larned 5-7)
WW—Dodge City 14-4, 9-6
WL—Kinsley 10-4, 15-16
WLW—Pratt Tournament (Dodge City 27-4, Hoisington 2-6, Pratt 7-2)
A Zone (W Cunningham 36-0; W Pratt 17-16; W McPherson 11-9; L McPherson 7-10; W McPherson 12-3)
CLASS A STATE CHAMPIONS
1997—Kansas City 199
1985—Kansas City 199