BY JIM MISUNAS
Great Bend Chiefs pitcher Colin Hall handled Monday’s big-game atmosphere like a true pro.
Hall pitched Great Bend into the AAA state tournament with a solid performance that led the Chiefs past Nickerson 8-1 in Monday’s AAA Zone qualifier. The Chiefs (25-14) will join an eight-team field at Hays July 31-Aug. 4.
He escaped his only jam when the Chiefs retired Tanner Schrag on a botched baserunning attempt. Nickerson’s Mason Munz, Schrag and Kaden Evert delivered consecutive singles, but Schrag ran into the first out of the inning at third base with the Panthers down 6-1. Hall retired Noah Salazar and Chandler Eaton to strand Evert at second base.
“That was huge, especially late in the game,” Hall said. “That kept us going when we got through that inning.”
Hall (6-2) threw the maximum 107 pitches by retiring three consecutive batters in the seventh inning.
“My job was to throw strokes, let my defense work and give us a chance to win,” Hall said. “I threw mostly fastballs. a few changeups and curves. It’s a solid game tonight. I just wanted to get the win.”
The Chiefs did a solid job putting the ball into play for 11 hits off the soft-throwing southpaw Johnny Huggard. He had not pitched since Nickerson won the 4A state high school championship game in May.
Red-hot Riley Smith finished off a 9-of-13 Zone tournament with three singles to finish batting .692. Alex Schremmer, Hall and Joey Soupiset all finished at .538 with 7-for-13 hitting at the Zone tournament.
“I’ve closed my stance, and I’m seeing the ball really well,” Smith said. “The big key for me is seeing the ball all the way.”
Riley Smith singled home Hall and Joey Soupiset scored on Nahum Olivas’ second-inning groundout for a 2-0 lead. Schremmer scored on Carson Smith’s third-inning groundout for a 3-0 lead.
The Chiefs scored three unearned fourth-inning runs to break the game open off the crafty lefthander Huggard. Riley Smith and Christian Zahnter were both trapped at second base when catcher Chandler Eaton threw the ball into centerfield. Huggard nearly escaped the threat, but Zahnter scored when rightfielder Evert dropped Schremmer’s line drive with two out. Haberman stole home on a double steal. Schremmer sprinted home by stealing home when Townshend Kurth took ball four for a 6-0 lead.
The Chiefs tacked on two insurance runs. Kurth doubled home Nahum Olivas in the sixth inning. Kurth raced home when Riley Smith stayed in a rundown long enough for an eighth run.
Great Bend coach Travis Kurth got exactly what he wanted — timely hitting and consistent pitching. The only negative was the Chiefs ran into a pair of outs on the bases.
“We’re going to enjoy this moment and relish the fact we’re going to the state tournament,” Kurth said. “The gusy took care of business. There are not many opportunities like this. We know it’s going to be really tough competition at the state tournament.”
GB Chiefs 021 302 0 — 8 11 1
Nickerson 000 010 0 — 1 5 2
Hall and Carson Smith. Huggard, Koon (6) and Eaton. W—Hall, 7-2. L—Huggard, 0-1. 2B—GB—Kurth.