Conventional wisdom tells us that Great Bend High School should meet Hays in a Class 5A regional championship tonight at 6 inside the Great Bend Sports Complex.
Before that can take a foothold, third-seeded Hays (15-5) must beat No. 6 Goddard Eisenhower (8-11) at 2 p.m. and No. 2 seed Great Bend (15-4) must beat seventh-seeded Newton (6-12) at 4 in semifinal action this afternoon.
“The idea of playing in front of your home crowd, having a home-field advantage, obviously helps,” Great Bend head coach Randy Beck said. “We’re not overlooking anyone.
“Obviously, it’s single-elimination here on out. You lose, you go home.”
This is what Great Bend has been working for all season. This is the culmination of a successful season, with the high point of the ride coming today.
This is the final home appearance for seniors Dakota Conaway, Brady Buehler, Danny Herrman, Chad Touslee, Braden Jones, Bryce Hofmeister, Mitch Johnson, Eric Ruiz and Kyle Riggs.
This is why the Panthers have spent countless hours hitting in the batting cages, shagging ground balls in the field and fine-tuning their arms.
Randy Beck said he will be choosing from either Tristan Hall or Bryce Both — both junior right-handers with 5-1 records — to be the starting pitcher against Newton.
Other pitchers will be ready, too, for the Panthers, who have a team earned-run average of 3.46.
The Panthers haven’t faced either Newton or Goddard Eisenhower this season. They are 2-1 against Hays, including the two teams splitting Western Athletic Conference games in becoming co-league champions with 6-2 records.
Great Bend, which swept Larned 2-1 and 5-3 on Friday at home in the regular-season finale, has a team batting average of .310.
• Right fielder Touslee leads the Panthers in batting average (.448) and runs batted in (20). Touslee is tied for the team lead with Beck with 26 hits, including a team-leading 21 singles, and has a team-best .457 on-base percentage,
• Shortstop/pitcher Beck ranks No. 2 in hitting (.426) and singles (20). He leads the team in at-bats (61) and runs (21), and his on-base percentage is .520.
• Conway is hitting just under .400 at .396, with a team-leading .527 on-base percentage. Predominantly a singles hitter last season, the hard-hitting first baseman has 21 hits in 2013, including 12 for extra bases. Conaway leads the team in doubles (9) and triples (3), and ranks second in RBI (14).
• Second baseman Buehler is batting .341, including five of his 15 hits being doubles. He has a team-best .458 average with runners in scoring position.
• Misc. — Shortstop Shade Wondra is batting .300. … Third baseman/pitcher Jones is hitting .295. … Ruiz is batting .244 and has driven in 12 runs, tied for third on the team with Beck.
• Panthers top averages
Chad Touslee, .448
Bryce Beck, .426
Dakota Conaway, .396
Brady Buehler, .341
• RBI leaders
Eric Ruiz, 12
• Pitching leaders
Tristan Hall, 5-1, 2.17 ERA
Beck, 5-1, 3.68 ERA
HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL
Class 5A Regional Tournament
At Maize South
(4) Salina Central, 12-6, vs. (5) Salina South,11-9, 2 p.m.
(1) Maize South, 13-3, vs. (8) Valley Center, 3-17, 4
Regional championship, 6
At Great Bend Sports Complex
(3) Hays, 15-5, vs. (6) Goddard-Eisenhower, 8-11, 2
(2) Great Bend, 15-4, vs. (7) Newton, 6-12, 4
Regional championship, 6