BY JIM MISUNAS
The Great Bend Chiefs were three outs away from surprising the heavily favored Hays Eagles for the second consecutive year.
But the Eagles rallied for four runs in the seventh inning to stun the Chiefs 5-4 Wednesday to steal a AAA state Legion baseball berth. The Chiefs employed identical last-inning magic to earn a AAA state berth last year.
Chiefs’ ace Colin Hall slowed the Eagles with a solid 91-pitch outing by throwing strikes and working ahead in the count. Shortstop Alex Schremmer started the first inning with a double play and delivered several highlight reel plays.
Hays’ Jamison Martin started the seventh-inning rally with a line-drive single. Cole Murphy fought off a tough pitch, but squeezed out a topped grounder that Schremmer was unable to make a play on.
It was go-time for the powerhouse Eagles (32-5) at the Great Bend Sports Complex.
The Eagles squared up the baseball with back-to-back triples by Brock Lummus off Hall and Brady Kreutzer off reliever Brice Kaiser for a 4-4 tie. After two walks to load the bases, Trey Riggs ripped a long fly ball to left field that scored Kreutzer with the game-winning run.
“There is no way to express what we’re feeling right now,” said Travis Kurth, Chiefs coach. “We’re hurting right now. We had one of the toughest zones in the state. I wish the Salina Falcons and Hays Eagles the best of luck next week.”
The Chiefs (21-13) lost three games to the Eagles 10-2, 12-1 and 4-0, but played one of their best baseball games of the summer.
Hall delivered a vintage performance and the Chiefs’ infield made play-after-play. Joey Soupiset stole two bases and Schremmer stole one base.
“Our guys did not back down,” Kurth said. “I couldn’t be more proud. We played one of our best baseball games all year. Hays just found a way to hit the baseball that last inning.”
Hays led 1-0 when Lummus scored on a third-inning error.
The Chiefs were poised to upset the Eagles with a 4-1 lead. After two walks and a hit batter, Schremmer singled home Cal Kaiser and Joey Soupiset for a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning. Calan Haberman scored on a wild pitch for a 3-1 lead. Soupiset scored a valuable insurance run on a seventh-inning Eagle error.
Catcher Brock Lummus was the Eagles’ defensive hero. He threw out Riley Smith and Townshend Kurth on attempted steals. Lummus also worked a rundown play where Palmer Hutchison tagged Soupiset out at home in the third inning.
“We fell short of our baseball goal, but we want to develop these young men to become the best people they can be,” Kurth said. “We accomplished that goal.”
GB Chiefs 000 030 1 — 4 6 1
Hays Eagles 001 000 4 — 5 9 3
Hall, Brice Kaiser (7) and Jesus Bujanda. Riggs, Hutchinson (6) and Lummus. W—Hutchinson. L—B. Kaiser. 3B—H—Lummus, Kreutzer.