Trailing the Dodge City Rangers 4-1 in the first game of a Class AAA American Legion doubleheader on Wednesday night, the Great Bend Panthers needed something to emerge from their slumber.
How about scoring two runs in the sixth inning and then adding the tying and winning runs in the seventh?
That’s exactly what the Chiefs did in their 5-4 come-from-behind win over the Rangers at Al Burns Memorial Field.
Mitch Kottas delivered a two-out single, with Darien Blackwill sliding in safely with the tying run. Then, for good measure, Logan Buehler followed by driving a double to right-center, knocking in Kottas with the winning run.
“Definitely, we struggled tonight the first five innings hitting the baseball,” Chiefs head coach Michael Stettinger said. “Basically, what it comes down to is that we got away from the same approach that worked (Tuesday night in a doubleheader sweep of Thomas More Prep-Marian).
“We got the same wind (Wednesday night) and we were trying to pull the baseball instead of going the other way. Once we decided to go the other way, we turned things around in a hurry.”
In the nightcap, right-hander Cole Smith pitched a three-hitter as the Chiefs drubbed the Rangers 13-2 in 3 ½ innings as the 10-run rule went into effect.
With their second sweep in two days, the Chiefs improved their overall record to 8-6. Dodge City drops to 3-13.
Great Bend 5, Dodge City 4
Lead-off hitter Kottas jumped all over Dodge City pitcher Jesus Sumaya’s fastball, driving it up the middle for the game-tying run batted in.
No. 2 hitter Buehler, who has hit three triples in the last four games, simply went the other way on his game-winning double.
“Most definitely, the top of the order has been swinging the bat well for us lately and Mitch, in particular, has really been swinging it really well and that’s why he’s batting in the lead-off spot,” Stettinger said. “It worked out perfect for us when we needed a hit.”
Left-hander Connor Sell persevered through five Chiefs errors, including four in the fifth, where the Rangers scored two runs to move ahead 4-1.
“He had some rough innings,” Stettinger said of Sell. “We had some defensive blunders behind him, but he did a good job of overcoming it, throwing strikes and kept us in the ballgame.”
Sell echoed Stettinger’s earlier sentiments about the Chiefs’ hitting.
“At the beginning of the game, we were trying to pull the ball and that’s when we’re at our best when we’re trying to go to the opposite field,” Sell said. “With our team, the bats are really contagious and when we start getting hits, everybody gets hits.”
Great Bend 13,
Dodge City 2 (3 ½)
The Rangers built a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, highlighted by a double by Josh Ginther and a triple by Nick Brady.
But the Chiefs answered right back with four runs in the bottom of the first and never looked back.
Matt Marshall hit an RBI double, Jace Bowman stroked an run-scoring single and Sam Hafner had an RBI single to highlight Great Bend’s first.
After the Chiefs made it 5-2 in the second on Marshall’s RBI single, they paraded 12 batters to the plate in the third, scoring eight runs on six hits. Cole Smith ripped a single to right, Jeff Pike dropped a double down the left-field line and Nick Ney singled to right to get the wheels turning.
Kottas followed with a double and scored on Buehler’s single, and Buehler scored on Marshall’s RBI single.
“It’s a momentum-builder,” said Leuenberger of the Chiefs’ four straight wins. “It will help get our confidence up and help us play as a team.
“We need to carry it over.”
AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL
At Great Bend
Al Burns Memorial Field
Great Bend Chiefs 5,
Dodge City Rangers 4
123 456 7 R H E
Dodge City 200 020 0 — 4 6 2
Great Bend 000 102 2 — 5 8 5
Jesus Sumaya & BJ Tieben; Connor Sell & Landon Leuenberger. W — Sell. L — Sumaya. 2B — Dodge City (Nick Brady); Great Bend (Logan Buehler). 3B — Great Bend (Logan Buehler).
Great Bend Chiefs 13,
Dodge City Rangers 2 (3 1/2)
123 4 R H E
Dodge City 200 0 — 2 3 2
Great Bend 418 x — 13 10 4
Bruce Campbell, Josh Ginther (3) & Jesus Sumaya; Cole Smith & Landon Leuenberger. W — Smith. L — Campbell. 2B — Dodge City (Josh Ginther); Great Bend (Matt Marshall, Mitch Kottas). 3B — Dodge City (Nick Brady); Great Bend (Logan Buehler).
Tuesday’s late game
Great Bend Chiefs 11,
Thomas More Prep-Marian 9
123 456 7 R H E
TMP-Marian 206 001 0 — 9 15 1
Great Bend 722 000 x — 11 9 4
Nick Hammake & Taylor Pfeifer; Matt Marshall, Nick Ney (3) & Landon Leuenberger. W — Marshall. L — Hammake. S—Nick Ney. 2B — Great Bend (Mitch Kottas 2, Marshall); TMP (Hammake).