The Great Bend Chiefs finally came up with a game-changing, momentum-seizing inning, something they’ve been waiting for all summer after a frustrating 3-5 start to the Class AAA American Legion baseball campaign.
The Chiefs exploded for a nine-run uprising in the fifth inning against Dodge City on Friday night at the City of Great Bend Sports Complex. It rallied them from a 6-2 deficit for an 11-8 victory during the first game of a doubleheader.
“That inning completely changed the game around,” Chiefs head coach Michael Stettinger said. “We were able to get some guys on base and what it came down to is that we got a few base hits we haven’t been getting so far and hopefully, that will be a momentum changer for our remaining games.
“I think we got the monkey off our back a little bit. We have been having to find ways to score and make things happen, and now we were able to get some base hits and broke some things open.”
The Chiefs were able to parlay their opening-game win into a doubleheader sweep, blanking the Rangers 10-0 in the second game on Nick Ney’s four-inning no-hitter.
Ney, who will be entering his sophomore season at Barton Community College, struck out seven of the 13 batters he faced, including the side in the fourth to end the game.
“In the legion season, we’re expecting a lot of big things out of Nick to be able to come out and throw a lot of innings,” Stettinger said. “At times we expected him to come out and dominate a game, especially having already pitched a year in college.
“That’s exactly what Nick has been able to do.”
Great Bend scored six runs in the first and never looked back, chasing starting pitcher Chris Brownback as he yielded five runs and left the game without recording an out.
The run-rule went into effect after 3 ½ innings.
Great Bend entertains the Hays Eagles at the Sports Complex on Tuesday night. The first game is set to start at 6.
Great Bend 11,
Dodge City 8
During their decisive nine-run outburst in the fifth, the Chiefs stringed together five straight singles — Bryce Hofmeister, Brady Biehler, Danny Herrman, Connor Sell and Dakota Conaway — and also received an RBI double by Trent Schremmer and a run-scoring single by Jace Bowman.
Great Bend needed every bit of it after Dodge City scored a pair of runs in the seventh and had the tying runs on base. But left-hander Sell, who relieved winning pitcher Braden Jones with one out in the seventh, retired Adley Davis on a fielder’s choice grounder to record the save.
“Connor is definitely a role pitcher for us,” Stettinger said. “He kind of transitioned from being a starter during high school ball to being more of a reliever for us this summer.
“But the great thing about Connor is that you can go to him in any situation and he’s going to come in and compete and he’s going to give you 100 percent.”
Sell, who thrived as a lead-off hitter for the Panthers and became an All-Western Athletic Conference first-team selection as an outfielder this past spring, struggled on the mound and lost his spot in the pitching rotation.
“The spring was a little tough,” Sell said. “I kind of got away from a starting role because that obviously wasn’t working out.
“Coming in as a reliever, that’s fine with me. Throwing a couple or three innings, that’s fine with me. That’s the pitching role I should have.”
Right-hander Braden Jones captured the win for the Chiefs, allowing eight runs and scattering 15 hits with 6 1/3 innings. He walked four and struck out four.
Conaway led the Chiefs’ nine-hit attack, driving in three runs with his single and double in three at-bats.
Dodge City, which led 6-2 after 4 ½ innings, held a 5-2 edge after 3 ½ as Davis stroked a two-run single to left-center. Jones retired the first two Rangers batters in the fourth before Dylan Roy and Dakota Duckett had back-to-back base hits before Davis drove them both in.
After falling in a 3-0 hole, Great Bend closed to 3-2 in the bottom of the third on Conaway’s bases-loaded double. Biehler led off the Chiefs’ third with a base hit to shallow right and Herrman followed with a bunt single down third-base line.
After Sell walked to fill the bases, Conaway followed with his two-base hit to left.
Jones issued a bases-loaded walk to Aaron Tieben in the top of the third for Dodge’s 3-0 lead, and Duckett and Davis hit RBI doubles in the first.
CLASS AAA AMERICAN LEGION
At Great Bend
Great Bend Chiefs 11,
Dodge City Rangers 8
123 456 7 R H E
Dodge City 201 210 2 — 8 15 2
Great Bend 002 090 x — 11 9 3
Juan-Carlos Vejao, Chris Brownback (6) & Kyle Riekenberg; Braden Jones, Connor Sell (6) & Mitch Kottas. W — Jones. L — Vejao. S — Sell. 2B — Dodge: Dakota Duckett, Adley Davis 2, Kyle Riekenberg; Great Bend: Dakota Conaway, Trent Schremmer.
Great Bend 10, Dodge City 0 (4)
123 4 R H E
Dodge City 000 0 — 0 0 4
Great Bend 603 1 — 10 6 1
Chris Brownback, Aaron Tieben (1) & Kalen Gifford; Nick Ney & Mitch Kottas. W — Ney. L — Brownback.