SALINA — No question, the Great Bend Chiefs had some golden opportunities against defending Kansas Grand Slam Wood Bat Tournament champion Millard North.
Yet, the Mustangs, based out of Omaha, Neb., scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh, capped by Dylan Roth’s bases-loaded walk-off single for a 5-4 win over the crestfallen Chiefs in Monday’s 9 a.m. game at James Matson Field.
“Errors are what killed us,” said Chiefs pitcher Mitch Kottas, who contained the high-powered Mustangs for six innings before his throwing error in the seventh got things rolling for Millard North. “If we would have played fundamentally-sound, we would have had it.
“We had some blunders, went to sleep on some plays and it came back to bite us.”
Chiefs skipper Michael Stettinger echoed Kottas’ sentiments.
“It comes down to playing defense and we didn’t execute defensively,” he said. “Mitch pitched one of the best games he’s thrown all summer and we had one inning where we didn’t execute defensively and it was a tough one-run loss.”
Great Bend (6-9) surged ahead 4-3 in the top of the seventh. Jace Bowman led off the inning by getting hit by a pitch and Kottas doubled down the left-field line, advancing Bowman to third. Braden Jones then punched an RBI single to shallow right field, driving in Bowman.
But Kottas, riding an impressive pitching performance against a team that finished third in the large-class Nebraska state tournament in May, ran into big trouble against the Mustangs during their final at-bat.
He walked Jack Wilson and Dallas Schramm consecutively to start the seventh, and then the turning point occurred. Cale Ewald laid down a bunt in front of the plate, and Kottas, coming off the mound to field the ball, threw wildly past Jones at third base, enabling Wilson to score the tying run with Schramm advancing to third and Ewald wound up at second.
Stettinger relieved Kottas with Nick Ney, who intentionally walked Steven Price to load the bases and set up a force play at any base. But Roth drove Ney’s offering into the gap in right-center, pushing across Schramm for the come-from-behind victory.
“I had some confidence from (the double in the top of the seventh), but I didn’t transfer it to the mound when I should have,” Kottas said.
“We came out and were really hitting the ball. It doesn’t show on the scoreboard, but we were getting people on base and had the opportunities to score.”
Great Bend built a 2-0 lead in the second. Trent Schremmer, Jones and Danny Herrman loaded the bases with consecutive walks. Bryce Beck then executed a suicide-squeeze bunt single, driving in Schremmer for the first run. Jones crossed the plate on a wild pitch for the 2-0 lead.
In the third, Kottas led off with a single to right, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. He later crossed the plate to make it 3-0.
Kottas sidestepped trouble in the third after yielding a pair of hits.
The Mustangs also stranded a pair of runners in the fourth, and then finally broke through in the fifth, highlighted by a two-run double by Schramm.
That set the stage for the game-changing final inning.
CLASS AAA AMERCIAN LEGION BASEBALL
2012 Kansas Grand Slam
Wood Bat Tournament
James Matson Field
Millard North Mustangs 5,
Great Bend Chiefs 4
123 456 7 R H E
Chiefs 021 000 1 — 4 5 3
Stangs 000 030 2 — 5 7 3
Mitch Kottas, Nick Ney (7) & Bryce Beck; Jeremy Niebur, Brad Olsen (2), Matt Evans (6) & Cale Ewald. W — Evans. L — Kottas. 2B – Millard: Parker Korlatz, Dallas Schramm, Cale Ewald; Chiefs: Kottas.