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Braves win back-to-back games to open tourney
Class A American Legion Baseball
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PRATT — The Great Bend Braves were able to avoid a rally in Game 1 against Minneola, and shut down host Pratt in the second game on Friday night.
The Braves (6-4) beat Minneola 8-7 and Pratt 3-0 in a wood bat tournament.
Lance Ward took the mound to start against Minneola. He went six innings for the win.
Ward gave up five hits and seven runs, finishing with eight strikeouts. He was pulled after Minneola scored three runs in the seventh.
“Lance did a good job as a pitcher,” Braves head coach Jordan Metro said. “He kept it low, forcing the other team to hit ground balls. Our defense just didn’t help him out with the last couple innings.
“We were up 8-1 heading into the sixth. I think the defense just relaxed a little too much.”
Minneola scored three runs in both the sixth and seventh to close within one, but Shade Wondra came in as relief of Ward and halted the Minneola uprising.
“Shade Wondra got the save,” Metro said. “He came in with the bases loaded and no outs in the seventh inning. He got two strikeouts, and then he got the last batter to ground out.”
Mitch Johnson led Great Bend at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a double and a single.
Ward had a double, and Dillon Reiser went 1-for-1 with a single, a hit by pitch and a walk. Reiser scored all three times he got on base.
Tristan Hall pitched a complete game for the shutout against Pratt. He finished with nine strikeouts and two walks. He scattered five hits.
“He dominated the game,” Metro said. “He did the same thing against McPherson, so this was back-to-back games when he dominated the batters and controlled the game from the mound.”
Great Bend broke a scoreless tie in the top of the sixth, with Jack Westhoff scoring on a wild pitch.
“The kids were pretty excited after that,” Metro said. “I think they relaxed a little at the plate, and started opening things up for us.”
The Braves, who finished with five hits, got two more runs in the seventh with Tyler Nuss driving in Hall with a sacrifice fly, and Wondra scoring on an error.
“It was just a couple of good defenses competing against each other,” Metro said of the second game. “We finally played a complete game defensively. Once we got on base, we made the most of our baserunners.”
The rest of the tournament was rained out. Great Bend hosts Pratt in a doubleheader on Tuesday with the first game starting at 6 p.m.

                                                                                     — Kevin Price