You can’t keep a good player down for long — not Great Bend Chiefs shortstop Logan Buehler, a first-team All-Western Athletic Conference and an all-area selection for the high school team during his senior season this spring.
Buehler, who struck out three times in the first game of the Chiefs Baseball Classic at Al Burns Memorial Field on Saturday morning, a 1-0 win over Pratt, sat out the second game, a 10-6 win over Dodge City in 5 ½ innings.
Buehler came back rock-solid in the championship game, hitting a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh, driving in Connor Sell for the winning run in a 7-6 comeback victory over Pratt.
“Every baseball player I’ve ever been around goes into a slump at some point,” Chiefs head coach Michael Stettinger said. “Logan was in a little bit of a slump and got himself right out of it.”
Buehler also had a key double for the Chiefs, who improved to 5-4 overall with their three-game sweep.
“It gave him a lot of confidence and got him back to seeing the ball leaving the pitcher’s hand,” Stettinger said of Buehler’s extra-base hitting.
The Chiefs had to rally against a stubborn Pratt team to win the title game. They tied the game at 6 after scoring a pair of runs in the sixth. Landon Leuenberger’s one-out RBI single drove in Buehler, who led off the inning by doubling, for the first run.
Sell helped set the table in the seventh, walking to open the inning and Mitch Kottas followed with a base hit to put him in scoring position. Buehler then hitting a slicing shot towards right-center for the game-winner.
“I was tired of getting up there and striking out and not producing,” Buehler said. “I kind of got mad at myself and I had to think back and tell myself that I know I’m a good ballplayer and I can do this. It’s more mental than anything.”
Great Bend led 2-1 after two innings. Jace Bowman and Jeff Pike hit consecutive singles and later scored.
Pratt led 3-2 after Giles Fox hit a two-run double, and stretched it to 5-2 in the fifth, highlighted by B.J. Dean’s double. The 86ers missed an opportunity to score another run in the inning when Giles Fox was called out and ejected from the game for not sliding while barreling into Chiefs catcher Leuenberger, who held his ground and the ball.
Ace right-hander Nick Ney persevered for a complete-game victory, scattering 11 hits.
Rangers 6 (5 ½)
A nine-run uprising in the fifth inning propelled the Chiefs past Dodge City in their second game of the day.
The Rangers scored five runs in the top of the fifth to close the gap to four. But the two-hour time limit went into effect at the end of the half-inning, ending the game.
Chiefs left-hander Sell, leading 1-0, had a no-hitter going with two out in the fourth before Jared Helfrich hit a disputed solo homer that was ruled to have hit the foul pole above the fence down the left-field line.
The Chiefs scored their first run after Bowman singled and later scored on an error.
Great Bend sent 13 batters to the plate during its fifth-inning scoring explosion. Sell, Kottas, Leuenberger, Cole Smith, Darien Blackwill and Sam Hafner all had base hits and scored during the surge.
Matt Marshall and Jace Bowman also reached base and scored. Blackwill scored two runs in the inning, and Smith’s RBI single was a tomahawk chop to right field, appropriate for the Chiefs.
Sell had two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 fifth before tiring in the sixth, where he allowed six straight baseunners and five runs, highlighted by doubles by Nick Brady and Ernie Fernandez.
Ney came on in relief after B.J. Tieben reached on an error on Buehler at shortstop. He got Adley Davis on a 4-6-3 double play and Cody Chance on a popout to Pike at first to get out of the inning.
Chiefs 1, 86ers 0
In Saturday’s opener, Great Bend right-hander Kottas struck out nine batters in a complete-game three-hitter.
“My arm was feeling really good and I knew that if I threw strikes, I have a good defense behind me and that makes plays,” Kottas said. “I would come with my fastball and then I would break them off with the slider.”
Kottas outdueled Bryan Hellman as the Chiefs broke a scoreless game with a run in the sixth.
Darien Blackwill hit a two-out single and later scored when Kottas reached on an error on shortstop B.J. Dean when the ball skipped under his glove.
“I got to second on a ball in the dirt and the catcher bobbled it,” said Blackwill, who moved to third on a pitch in the dirt. “We did what we needed to do to get the win.”
Kottas added, “When Darien got on, I knew he was running the bases hard and we showed aggressiveness on the base paths that got him to third.”
Great Bend was held to just three hits. Bowman and Kottas had its other singles.
Kottas struck out Dean, a Class 4A all-state player, three times in the game.
In Saturday afternoon’s elimination games, Pratt beat Dodge City back-to-back, 16-10 and 9-5
CHIEFS BASEBALL CLASSIC
At Al Burns Memorial Field
Great Bend Chiefs 7,
Pratt 86ers 6
123 456 7 R H E
Pratt 012 201 0 — 6 11 2
Great Bend 020 202 1 — 7 11 1
Giles Fox, Dean (6) & Angood ; Nick Ney & Landon Leuenberger. W — Ney. L — Dean. 2B — Pratt (Giles Fox, Barnard); Great Bend (Logan Buehler 2).
Pratt 16, Dodge City 10
Pratt 9, Dodge City 5
Great Bend Chiefs 10,
Dodge City Rangers 6 (5 ½)
123 456 R H E
Dodge City 000 105 — 6 4 0
Great Bend 100 09x — 10 8 0
Josh Ginther & BJ Tieben; Connor Sell, Nick Ney (6) & Landon Leuenberger. W — Sell. L — Ginther.
Great Bend Chiefs 1, Pratt 86ers 0
123 456 7 R H E
Pratt 000 000 0 — 0 3 0
Great Bend 000 010 x — 1 3 0
Hellman & Angood ; Mitch Kottas & Landon Leuenberger. W — Kottas. L — Hellman.