Things weren’t looking up for the Great Bend AAA American Legion baseball team early on against Russell on Saturday afternoon.
In the Chiefs’ second pool play game of the day, Russell got ahead early, taking advantage of a handful Great Bend errors.
Great Bend made a full recovery only to give it up in the seventh inning, falling 15-11.
“I think coach (Randy) Beck said it best when he called it a Jekyll and Hyde game,” Chiefs head coach Mike Stettinger said. “Defensively, we played as bad as I’ve seen them play all year. I think we had 10 errors, which is completely unacceptable.
“Offensively, to be down nine runs and still come back and give ourselves a chance to win it is pretty impressive.”
With the loss, Great Bend drops to 1-1 in pool play in the Chiefs Classic. They will play today as the No. 2 seed from pool ‘A’ at 1:30 p.m. at the Great Bend Sports Complex. They play Buhler.
Russell scored in the first inning on a wild pitch with Chiefs starting pitcher Jaxx Hillman just one pitch away from closing out the inning.
Russell started taking advantage of errors in the second inning.
With the leadoff man getting on base thanks to a fielding error, Russell started a five-run inning. Great Bend committed four errors.
Brady Michel, who was 4-for-4 in the game, got Great Bend on the scoreboard, launching a booming home run over the left-field wall in the bottom of the second inning.
“It was his second of the day,” Stettinger said. “In the first inning, we hit a line drive and it went right to somebody, but in the second inning, when Brady hit it, it definitely added a spark to the offense. Then we had quite a few doubles to follow that up.
“We really did a good job hitting the gaps today and did a great job with runners in scoring position.”
Great Bend still trailed 6-1 heading into the third.
Russell again proved to have potent bats, repeatedly putting the ball in play and getting runs off errors.
Russell added four more runs to its lead for a commanding 10-1 advantage heading into the bottom of the third.
Neither team scored again until the bottom of the fourth, with Tyler Nuss hitting an RBI single to right-center field, making it 10-2.
Shade Wondra added another run with a single ripped up the middle, making it 10-3 heading into the top of the fifth.
In the bottom of the fifth, Great Bend loaded the bases for Tristan Hall, who blasted a two-run double into center field.
Jared Maneth drove in a run with a sacrifice, as did Nuss, who secured he second RBI of the game.
Great Bend left the bottom of the fifth down 10-7.
Dillon Reiser drove a pitch past the Russell second baseman to drive in a run.
Matt Zecha drove in Reiser with a single, moving to second on the throw home.
Michel drove him home to knot the game at 10 with a single into center field.
Maneth scored the go-ahead run with a one-out single, leaving it 11-10 after six innings.
The storybook ending was not to be, though, as Russell another Great Bend error aided it in scoring five runs in the top of the seventh.
“It was a really good game where the kids did everything we asked, offensively,” Stettinger said. “Our pitchers, on the whole today, did a good job throwing strikes. Even when Jaxx Hillman was in, he threw strikes, we just didn’t play defense behind him.”
Hillman went three innings, giving up 11 runs, though only two were earned. He had two strikeouts and two walks.
Michel pitched the other four innings, giving up four hits and four runs. He had three strikeouts.
Great Bend 10, Larned 3
It took a few innings for each team to get their offense started, but Great Bend got things started first.
The Chiefs scored three runs in the bottom of the third, and four in the bottom of the fourth before Larned even got on the scoreboard.
That coupled with a strong performance on the mound from starting pitcher Beck and Wondra gave the Chiefs the victory.
“Bryce threw a good game against them,” Stettinger said. “Wondra came in and closed the game up. We played a great game against Larned. We played a very clean game defensively.”
Beck went six innings, scattering six hits and giving up three runs and one walk. He had five strikeouts.
Great Bend had 16 hits in all, led by Zecha and Michel, both of whom were 3-for-3 with three runs scored.
Michel and Tristan Hall each had a home run.
Tristan’s three-run blast led him to have a team-leading four RBIs in the game.