A veteran Class AAA American Legion baseball team from yesteryear has become young and challenged.
The Great Bend Chiefs, an 18-and-under summer league team, travel to Hays on Tuesday for a doubleheader, starting at 6 p.m. at Larks Park. They entertain Salina in a home-opening doubleheader on Thursday night at the Great Bend Sports Complex.
"We have a tough week coming up," Chiefs manager Michael Stettinger said. "We're playing two quality teams (Hays and Salina) before our tournament (on June 15-16).
"One thing about legion baseball is going to happen in every doubleheader that we play and most tournaments, we're going to be facing quality competition."
The Chiefs opened the season last weekend by losing four games at the Manhattan Tournament of Champions. They lost four seasoned players from last season's 12-16 team — Mitch Kottas, Jace Bowman, Nick Ney and Connor Sell.
Kottas and Bowman are starting their sophomore baseball seasons at Barton Community College in the fall.
The Chiefs advanced to the zone championship game last summer, falling to a 41-8 Hays team that sent their arch rival to the state tournament in Manhattan.
Moreover, the likes of graduating seniors Dakota Conaway, Brady Buehler and Danny Herrman have decided not to play for the Chiefs.
"We're going to miss the seniors, especially with their leadership," Stettinger said. "It's going to be good for the juniors that are going to be seniors next year to step into a leadership role right now and go ahead and take over the team.
"It's going be a challenge for them and there will be some struggles at times this year, but, overall, I think it's going to provide them with a lot of confidence going into next season."
Enter GBHS seniors-to-be Tristan Hall and Bryce Beck, the top two pitchers for the Panthers, who shared the Western Athletic Conference championship with Hays with 6-2 records. The aforementioned duo, along with pitcher/third baseman Braden Jones, shortstop Shade Wondra and outfielders/pitchers Johnny Allende and Dillon Reiser, played for the Panthers, who finished 15-5 overall after losing to Newton in a Class 5A regional tournament game.
The Chiefs have a 17-player roster with only one legion team. Prospective Braves players moved up to the Chiefs after the Braves couldn't field a team because of a lack of numbers.
Hall led the Panthers with a 5-1 record and a 2.84 earned run average, as well as recording the most innings pitched (44½) and strikeouts (40).
Ranking No. 2 for the Panthers in batting average (.415), Beck led GBHS in hits (27) and steals (11). He had a 5-2 record in 40 innings with 27 strikeouts.
Class AAA American Legion
2013 Great Bend Chiefs Roster
C-INF-P Jared Maneth; OF-P Brett Basye; C-INF-P Anson Hall; INF-P Jaxx Hillman; INF-P Tyler Nuss; INF-OF-C Matthew Zecha; INF-P Shade Wondra;OF-P Logan Zecha; OF-P Johnny Allende; P-SS Bryce Beck; P-INF Tristan Hall; OF-P Dillon Reiser; INF-P Braden Jones; OF-P Gabriel Juarez; INF-P Rane Libeer; INF Alex Deist; INF Aaron Rodriquez.
Tuesday — @ Hays, 6, 8 p.m.
Thursday — SALINA, 6 p.m., 8 p.m.
Saturday — CHIEFS CLASSIC, Larned, 9 a.m.
CHIEFS CLASSIC, Hutchinson Blue, 1:30 p.m.
CHIEFS CLASSIC, Buhler, 5:30 p.m.
Sunday — CHIEFS CLASSIC, Semifinals, 11 a.m.
CHIEFS CLASSIC, Final, 3 p.m.
Tuesday, June 18 — McPHERSON, 6, 8 p.m.
Wednesday, June 19 — TMP 6, 8 p.m.
June 22-23 — @ Pratt Wood Bat Tournament
Wednesday, June 26 — At Salina, 6, 8 p.m.
June 29-30 — @ McPherson Tournament
Tuesday, July 2 — HAYS, 6, 8 p.m.
July 4-7 — @ Salina Tournament
Tuesday, July 9 — DODGE CITY, 6, 8 p.m.
Wednesday, July 10 — @ McPherson, 6, 8 p.m.
Friday, July 12 — @ Buhler, 4, 6 p.m.
Tuesday, July 16 — @ Dodge City, 6, 8 p.m.
Wednesday, July 17 — @ TMP, 6. 8 p.m.
Thursday, July 18 — BUHLER, 6, 8 pm.
July 22-26 — Class AAA Zone Tournament
HOME GAMES IN ALL CAPS