BY JIM MISUNAS
The Hays Eagles survived a bases-loaded jam to outlast the Great Bend Chiefs 13-12 Sunday to capture the Zone baseball winner's bracket finals. Hays (32-6) qualifies for the AAA-AA state baseball tournament at Hays. Hays rallied from an 11-2 deficit.
Hays reliever Cody Petersen retired Carson Smith for the final out with the bases-loaded to secure the eight-inning victory. Brady Kreutzer, who played last week in the A Zone tournament, scored the game-winning run and drove home four runs with four hits.
Great Bend (24-14) plays in Monday's 6 p.m. losers bracket final against Nickerson, a 6-3 winner over the Salina Falcons. The winner qualifies for the AAA-AA state baseball tournament.
The back-and-forth affair resembled a heavyweight boxing match with the momentum swinging wildly from inning-to-inning. The teams combined for 28 hits and 24 RBIs.
The Chiefs scored eight runs off Hays pitcher Palmer Hutchison in the first inning and led 11-2. But the Eagles outscored the Chiefs 11-1 in their final five at-bats.
"We didn't stop their momentum. They kept getting base hits," said Great Bend Chiefs coach Travis Kurth. "That's a really deep Hays batting lineup."
The Chiefs ripped Hays starter Palmer Hutchison for eight first-inning runs. Townshend Kurth delivered a two-run single for an 8-2 lead after Colin Hall, Joey Soupiset, Christian Zahnter and Alex Schremmer drove home runs. Hays led 2-0 on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch and a sacrifice fly.
Crafty Hays lefthanded reliever Tate Garcia worked 52/3 innings while yielding one earned run to keep the Eagles in the game. The Chiefs scratched out three runs when Riley Smith drilled a two-run single and Soupiset added an RBI groundout for an 11-2 lead after three innings.
"Garcia kept us off balance," Kurth said. "We didn't put any hits together. We wanted to keep our foot on the pedal."
Chiefs' starter Townshend Kurth worked three effective innings when Hays roughed him up for six runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Centerfielder Calan Haberman rescued the Chiefs with several solid catches and had an assist.
Petersen ripped a two-run single and Dom Bainter added an RBI single in the fourth inning. Kreutzer, Josh Haynes and Garcia delivered RBIs in the fifth for an 11-8 score.
The Chiefs committed three errors and walked two batters in a nightmarish four-run Hays sixth inning. Hutchison, Trey Riggs, Brock Lummus and Kreutzer drove home runs. Kreutzer singled in Lummus for a 12-11 lead. First baseman Kurth kept the Chiefs close by turning Bainter's line drive into a double play.
"We had a couple of tough plays we didn't make and Hays had big hits," Kurth said.
Nahum Olivas drove in Soupiset with a sixth-inning sacrifice fly to make Riley Smith's sacrifice bunt pay off for a 12-12 tie.
"With the last at-bat, I wanted to tie," Kurth said. "Give credit to Riley Smith for getting a bunt down and Nahum Olivas for a big sacrifice fly."
NICKERSON 6, SALINA FALCONS 3 (G8) – Reliever Mason Munz preserved a 3-3 tie and Kaden Evert delivered a two-run double as Nickerson shocked the Salina Falcons 6-3 to avenge last year's loss in the AAA state championship game.
Kaleb Jackson scored on an error and Pratt's Evert doubled home Munz and Tanner Schrag in the eighth inning. Kingman's Munz recorded five outs after starter Evert passed his 105-pitch count in the seventh inning.
Evert singled home Schrag and Brendan McBeth singled home Noah Salazar in the first inning. Salina's Cason Long singled in Jason Duong and Brogen Richardson and Long scored on a wild pitch for a 3-2 lead. Schrag's sacrifice fly scored Garcia for a 3-3 tie after six innings.
NICKERSON 6, HUTCHINSON COLTS 0 (G5) – Nickerson pitcher Tre Garcia threw 78 pitches and struck out five batters in a two-hit shutout.
Garcia doubled home Mason Munz and Tanner Schrag to ignite a four-run fifth inning. Wade Koon scored on an error and Chandler Eaton singled home Noah Salazar. Schrag tripled home Munz and Kaleb Jackson in the sixth inning.
SALINA FALCONS 7, BELOIT 0 (G6) – Pitchers Cason Long and Joshua Weiser combined for a four-hit shutout. Long (4-2) struck out seven batters.
Brogen Richardson doubled and drove home two runs. Jason Duong, Weiser and Hunter Whittecar drove in runs.
Hays Eagles 200 334 01 – 13 16 4
GB Chiefs 803 001 10 – 12 12 4
Hutchison, Garcia (2), Petersen (7) and Lummus. Kurth, Schremmer (6) and Hall. W–Petersen, 5-0. L–Schremmer, 1-3. 2B–GB–Soupiset; H–Kreutzer, Bainter, Hutchison.
Nickerson 200 001 03 – 6 12 3
Salina Falcons 300 000 00 – 3 4 4
Evert, Munz (7) and Eaton. Whittecar, Hannert (3), Suarez (8) and Baughman. W–Munz, 1-0. L–Hannert, 3-1. 2B–N–Evert.
Beloit 000 000 0 – 0 4 0
Salina Falcons 210 040 x – 7 11 1
Corbett, Bohnenblust (5) and Keegan McDonald. Weiser, Long (3) and Baughman. W–Long, 4-2. L–Corbett. 2B–S–Richardson, Issacson; B–Ferguson.
Hutchinson 000 000 0 – 0 2 2
Nickerson 000 042 x – 6 6 0
Jared Stoffel and Goldsmith. Garcia and Eaton. W–Garcia, 1-1. L–Stoffel, 1-6. 2B–N–Garcia. 3B–N–Schrag.