BY JIM MISUNAS
HAYS — The Great Bend Chiefs were one play away from a monumental upset in the AAA/AA American Legion state baseball tournament.
The minute the Great Bend Chiefs stopped playing spectacular defense, Emporia made them pay. Emporia rallied for a 4-3 victory with two unearned seventh inning runs.
Emporia converted three walks and two errors into the game-winning three-run rally. Camden Kirmer singled and Sawyer Sladen, Beau Baumgardner and Jace Stewart drew walks off reliever Joey Soupiset. Camden Kirmer scored on a bases-loaded walk and Sladen and Baumgardner scored on a throwing error.
Riley Wagner drilled a crisp groundball to shortstop Alex Schremmer, but second baseman Riley Smith threw the relay away as the tying and eventual winning runs scored. The Chiefs would've won the game 3-2 with a game-ending double play.
The Chiefs led 3-1 with two outs left when Kirmer singled. Soupiset lost his pitching rhythm after throwing a wild pickoff attempt.
"It's frustrating. If you want to be a champion, you've got to finish that game," said Travis Kurth, Great Bend coach. "We failed to compete in the seventh inning."
Chiefs' reliever Townshend Kurth got exactly what the Chiefs needed — hard-hit groundball right at an infielder in stifling 107-degree heat.
"We got what we wanted. We had ourselves in a great position," Kurth said. "A victory would've taken a lot of stress off us. Now, our backs are against the wall."
The Chiefs (0-1) must sweep Ottawa Thursday at 10 a.m. and Hays Friday to advance from the AAA pool.
Colin Hall singled home Schremmer in the first inning after Schremmer and Kurth singled off starter Hayden Baumwart. The Chiefs stranded baserunners in scoring position in the first four innings.
Emporia's No. 9 hitter Camden Kirmer singled home Kadyn Williams for a 1-1 tie after two innings.
The Chiefs scored two fifth-inning runs with two out. Kurth singled home Riley Smith and Carson Smith singled home Calan Haberman. Pitcher Cade Kohlmeier struck out Hall with the bases loaded.
Chiefs' second baseman Smith produced a key defensive play with a 4-6-3 double play to end the fourth inning after a leadoff double. Schremmer picked off Kirmer at first base after a leadoff fifth-inning single. Catcher Carson Smith threw out Jace Stewart in the third inning.
SABETHA 15, NORTON 0 (G1) —Sabetha scored 11 runs in the third inning for a run-rule victory. Sabetha pitcher Joe Gruber threw a two-hit shutout for an easy 15-run rule victory. Gabe Gruber delivered three hits. Riley Herrmann reached base three times. Sabetha captured last year's AA Legion championship and won the past two 3A state high school baseball championships.
IOLA 10, RUSSELL 0 (G3) — Iola pitcher Derek Bycroft shut down Russell with a one-hitter. Bycroft tripled and drove home three runs. Cal Leonard doubled and drove home two runs.
HAYS EAGLES 14, OTTAWA 0 (G4) — Hays Eagles Palmer Hutchison and Cody Petersen homered as the Eagles roared past Ottawa. Petersen drove home three runs. Brady Kreutzer drove in two runs.
CLASS AAA/AA STATE HAYS
AAA POOL—Hays Eagles 3-0, Emporia 2-1, Great Bend Chiefs 1-2, Ottawa Arrows 0-3
AA POOL—Iola 3-0, Sabetha 2-1, Russell 1-2, Norton 1-2
7-31—Sabetha 15, Norton 0; Emporia 4, Great Bend Chiefs 3; Iola 10, Russell 0; Hays 14, Ottawa 0
8-1—GB Chiefs 13, Ottawa Arrows 3; Sabetha 17, Russell 1; Hays 12, Emporia 2; Iola 10, Norton 0
8-2—Norton 10, Russell 9; Emporia 5, Ottawa 1; Iola 5, Sabetha 4; Hays 14, GB Chiefs 8
8-3—Hays Eagles 5, Sabetha 4; Iola 2, Emporia 2, 7th
Emporia 010 000 3 — 4 9 1
GB Chiefs 100 200 0 —3 10 3
Baumwart, Kohlmeier (4) and Baumgardner. Hall, Schremmer (4), Soupiset (7), Kurth (7) and Carson Smith, Hall (4). W—Kohlmeier 8-1. L—Soupiset, 6-2. 2B—E—Williams
Ottawa 000 0 — 0 0 3
Hays 617 x — 14 10 0
Johnston, Hadl (3) and Laurie. Dreiling and Lummus. W—Dreiling, 5-0. L—Johnston, 2-1. 2B—Bainter, Petersen. HR—Hutchison, Petersen.
Russell 000 0 — 0 1 3
Iola 323 2 — 10 7 0
Huser, Foster (1), Rome (3) and Schmidtberger. Bycroft and Whitney. W—Bycroft. L—Huser. 3B—Iola—Bycroft. HR—Iola—Leonard.
Norton 000 — 0 2 3
Sabetha 31(11) — 15 6 0
Gasper, Smith (3) and Sproul, Lively. Gruber and Frey. W—Gruber, 6-1. L—Gasper. 2B—S—Argabright; N—Haresnape.