DODGE CITY — Four games in two days as the temperatures soared into the triple digits was too much for the Great Bend Chiefs to overcome.
In the three-team, double-elimination Class AAA American Legion Zone 7 Tournament at Demon Field, the Chiefs needed to beat Hays in the championship round Wednesday night to force a second title game today.
Hays made sure that wouldn’t happen, cutting loose for five runs in a momentum-seizing first inning and rolling to a 13-6 victory to clinch a berth at the state tournament in Leavenworth.
For the second straight day, Great Bend took care of business against Dodge City, although it came up short against top-seeded Hays — twice.
“It’s tough any time when you have to play four seven-inning games in two days, let alone play four nine-inning games,” Great Bend head coach Michael Stettinger said.
Trevor Henningsen had a single and pair of doubles to lead Hays, including driving in a pair of runs on his two-base hit in the fourth.
It was a game where the Chiefs (18-17) tried to pull out all of the stops. Every player in their starting lineup played more than one position during the game, with the exception of catcher Landon Leuenberger, and Great Bend also used four pitchers.
“(Against Hays), our pitchers did as good as they could,” Stettinger said. “They did what we asked them to and once again, Hays was able to hit the ball.”
The last pitcher, first baseman Jeff Pike, was the most effective, allowing only two runs in the final four innings.
Yet, the momentum was already in the Eagles favor, thanks to its five-run surge in the first off starting pitcher Matt Marshall, who never made it out of the inning.
Great Bend closed the gap to 5-3 after scoring a trio of runs in the second, only to have Hays score one run in the third, five in the fourth and two more in the fifth to build the lead to 13-3.
“At no point did we ever give up and quit,” Stettinger said. “We competed the entire game and had some good hits. The last couple innings, we hit the ball right at them.”
Great Bend scored three runs in the sixth, highlighted by RBI singles by Pike and Mitch Kottas, to fix the final margin at 13-6.
“We’ve definitely had some ups and downs this season, but the season as a whole, I feel like our younger players got better and our seniors got ready for college.”
Nick Ney came off the bench and had a pair of singles, and Logan Buehler, Leuenberger, Cole Smith and Jace Bowman also had base hits for the Chiefs.
Class AAA American Legion
Zone 7 Baseball Tournament
At Dodge City
Hays 13, Great Bend 6
123 456 789 R H E
Great Bend 030 003 000 — 6 9 3
Hays 501 520 00x — 13 15 3
Matt Marshall, Nick Ney (1), Cole Smith (4), Jeff Pike (5) & Landon Leuenberger; Taylor Renz, Tyler Woolridge (7) & Chandler Rule. W — Renz. L — Marshall. 2B — Hays (Trevor Henningen 2).