For the Great Bend Chiefs, the Class AAA American Legion zone baseball tournament at Dodge City today and Wednesday features both the familiarity and unfamiliarity.
The Chiefs (16-15) take on the host Rangers in a first-round game today at 4.
The two foes are familiar with each other. After all, they have played each other five times this season, with Great Bend winning four.
And, the two teams are also Western Athletic Conference rivals during the school year. A third WAC counterpart, conference champion Hays, is the top seed in the three-team zone. Hays features a number of its players from its spring state tournament team.
While Great Bend has some familiarity with Dodge City, it has yet to face Hays all summer. Yet, instead of worrying about the opposition, the Chiefs are worrying about themselves.
“We know what we’ve got to do,” Chiefs head coach Michael Stettinger said. “We’ve got to pitch well and we’ve got to swing the bat and put the ball in play and put runners in scoring position.”
The Chiefs swept Hutchinson 10-3 and 12-4 in a regular-season home finale last Tuesday, one day removed from being swept in a doubleheader at Pratt.
In its most recent game, last Wednesday, Great Bend battered McPherson 17-14 in a slugfest in McPherson to end the regular season.
“The guy that really has been on fire lately is Nick Ney,” Stettinger said. “He was 5-for-5 with a home run over the center-field fence.”
It was a spark for the sagging Chiefs against McPherson, according to Stettinger.
“That’s definitely what it was for us because we weren’t playing all that well,” Stettinger said. “When he hit the home run, that was when we really started coming around.”
As far as the Chiefs’ pitching staff is concerned, they will be tested, like they have been all season.
Right-handers Mitch Kottas and Ney both have 4-1 won-loss records on the season. Left-hander Connor Sell is 2-2, and right-hander Matt Marshall is 2-1.
Stettinger said he didn’t know who will be the starting pitcher against Dodge City, hinting that some of the Chiefs’ starting pitchers might be called upon in relief duty.
“We’re going to have some pitchers that are going to accept some roles that they haven’t always taken on,” Stettinger said.