BY JIM MISUNAS
Sage Koelsch rescued the Great Bend Chiefs with a clutch relief performance. He sparked back-to-back walkoff American Legion baseball wins over Larned with the game-winning single.
The Chiefs swept Larned 5-4 and 4-3 on Bradley Hopkins' second-game game-winner Friday at the Great Bend Sports Complex.
CHIEFS 5, LARNED 4 (G1) — Koelsch stranded the go-ahead runner at third base when he struck out Larned's best hitters Logan Erway and Mello Bryant to preserve a 4-4 tie in the seventh inning.
Koelsch blew a fastball past Erway and struck out Bryant with a sharp-breaking curveball to strand Ian Orth at third base.
"Pitching out of the seventh was tougher because the runner was in scoring position," Koelsch said. "I try to get warmed up and throw strikes."
Koelsch drilled the game-winning single off hard-luck losing pitcher Gavin Alvarez to score Mathew Moeder. Moeder stole second base after he hustled to first base to barely beat a throw from shortstop Dillan Smith.
Koelsch was congratulated by happy teammates after his game-winning single.
"It's been a while since I did that, but it felt good to come through," he said.
Great Bend opened the door for Larned's tying three-run sixth inning with two errors, a wild pitch and a strikeout that eluded catcher Jade Poe. Logan Erway scored when third baseman Brad Beck bounced a throw to catcher Poe. Mello Bryant scored on a wild pitch. Brady Hope scored on an error for a 4-4 tie. Chiefs' pitcher Edwin Chavez retired Alvarez and Carlos Ibarra to preserve a 4-4 tie.
Koelsch scored a first-inning run on a wild pitch. Larned's Dillan Smith scored on Ibarra's second-inning groundout. Tyler Stuhlsatz's two-run fourth-inning single scored Stefan Spray and Brad Beck. Paco Hernandez doubled home Koelsch for a 4-1 lead after five innings.
Both teams threw out a pair of baserunners.
Larned pitcher Bryant picked off Hernandez at first base. Catcher Brady Hope threw out Gavin Haberman on an attempted steal. Catcher Poe threw out Bryant twice on attempted steals in the first and third innings.
CHIEFS 4, LARNED 3, 9 innings (G2) — Bradley Hopkins delivered the game-winning single to score Chavez to end another thrilling baseball victory in nine innings. With two out, Chavez walked and Mathew Moeder singled off Larned pitcher Dillan Smith (2-1).
Larned starter Christian Murray struck out eight batters and yielded no earned runs in five innings. Chiefs starter Hernandez struck out 12 batters and Jade Poe (1-0) struck out three batters.
Dillan Smith scored a second-inning run on an error for a 1-0 lead through 51/2 innings.
Murray ran out of fuel in the sixth inning after a brilliant 103-pitch effort. He walked Poe and Hernandez and threw Stefan Spray's bunt down the right field line as Poe and Hernandez scored. Stuhlsatz singled home Spray for a 3-1 lead.
Larned rallied for a 3-3 tie against reliever Poe. Dillan Smith scored on a wild pitch and Ian Orth's two-out single scored Alvarez with the Indians down to their final out.
Poe struck out Jacob Grosfield and Hope in the eighth inning and retired Smith to strand Bryant at third base.
Chiefs' catcher Brad Beck threw out Bryant in the third inning and Smith in the fourth inning.
Larned 010 003 0 — 4 3 1
Chiefs 100 210 1 — 5 7 3
Bryant, Alvarez (4) and Hope. Chavez, Koelsch (7) and Poe. W—Koelsch, 1-0. L—Alvarez, 0-1. 2B—L—Orth
Larned 010 000 200 — 3 5 2
Chiefs 000 003 001 — 4 9 2
Murray, Dillan Smith (6) and Orth. Hernandez, Poe (7) and Beck. W—Poe, 1-0. L—D. Smith, 2-1.