PRATT — The Great Bend Braves split games in pool play to open the Pratt Wood Bat Tournament on Saturday at Green Sports Complex.
The Braves, who are playing the majority of the season as part of the Class AAA American Legion Chiefs, beat Ulysses 11-8 to open the tournament, but fell to Buhler 11-7.
Great Bend didn’t have enough players to field two teams this season, causing several young players to play in the higher age division.
Great Bend head coach Michael Stettinger said that his team was seeing the ball well at the plate in both games.
“They hit the ball really well,” Stettinger said. “You could really see that these kids have improved against the older teams. They were hitting the ball into gaps, finding space. They got the barrel of the bat on the ball well.”
The Braves play again today at 10 a.m. in bracket play.
“I think we’ll be playing two games tomorrow,” Stettinger said. “I think the two teams that win will be playing for a championship, and the other two teams will play in a consolation game.”
In the first game, Ulysses started things off by plating three runs in the top of the first and another two in the second before Great Bend got on the board.
The Braves responded with a nine-run second inning.
“(Ulysses) started things off with a two-run home run,” Stettinger said. “They kind of jumped on us early. Then we got going in the second. We had kids getting walked, getting beaned. Jared Maneth had a triple. Jaxx Hillman had two hits, and we had probably seven hits in that inning.”
Reliever Anson Hall got the win after replacing Braves starting pitcher Gabriel Juarez in the first inning. Shade Wondra came on in relief for the Braves in the third.
Ulysses scored three runs in the third, and Great Bend added single runs in the third and the fourth.
Against Buhler, the Braves drove home two runs in the top of the first.
Great Bend scored again in the second, and Buhler added a run each in the first two innings to make it 3-2 heading into the third.
Buhler scored four runs in the third to take the lead, and another run in the fourth to hold a 7-3 advantage.
The Braves scored three runs in the fifth inning to close the gap to 7-6, but a three-run home run highlighted a four-run sixth for Buhler as Great Bend never recovered.
“They played well defensively,” Stettinger said. “We didn’t play as well in the Buhler game as we did in the Ulysses game, which was the difference.”
Hillman started on the mound and went five innings before Tyler Nuss came on in relief to finish the game.
Anson Hall led Great Bend, going 3-for-4 with a double and two singles.
Aaron Rodriguez went 2-for-4 with a double, and Tristan Hall finished 2-for-4 with a pair of singles.
— Kevin Price