HAYS — Austin Unrein of Hays High School furnished the offensive bookends that put the squeeze on Great Bend Thursday evening in Western Athletic Conference doubleheader baseball action.
Unrein led off Hays’ bottom half of the first inning of game one with a home run, one of four long balls the Indians hit in the opener, an 11-10 extra-inning victory, capped by Riley Kaus’ two-out, walk-off homer in the bottom of the eighth.
For an encore, Unrein’s two-run double highlighted a four-run uprising in the seventh of the second game to rally Hays to a 9-8 come-from-behind win and a doubleheader sweep of the crestfallen Panthers.
“When you have rivalry games, you expect games like these,” said Great Bend head coach Randy Beck, whose team dropped to 4-2 on the season. “A lot of times, it comes down to one pitch, one swing of the bat, one key defensive play, and that’s what both games came down to.
“Unfortunately, we just didn’t get it done. Those were tough ones to lose right there … really tough to lose.”
Trevor Henningsen and Jake Sedbrook also homered for the Indians in game one, offsetting a pair of homers by Great Bend’s Jace Bowman, who went 4 for 5 with six runs batted in.
The right-handed-hitting Bowman hit an opposite-field three-run shot in the third and added solo blast in the sixth — as the Panthers kept rallying back before the Indians had the final word.
“Jace was really seeing the ball well in game one,” Randy Beck said. “He really had some quality at-bats, just seeing it and hitting it.
“Sometimes it left the yard.”
In an early-season showdown between the two-time defending WAC champions and the former longtime conference champs, Hays seized the upper hand with critical late-inning at-bats.
“When you play your rival, there’s a little bit more at stake and the kids play harder, I think,” Randy Beck said. “It just turns out that way, I guess. (Hays is) a good-hitting team all through the lineup, and that’s what we expect when we play good teams, but we showed life and had a never-say-die attitude.
“One of our goals is to answer back. When they scored, we scored. We probably did that in four innings in game one, and that shows they’re ready to compete.”
Great Bend 10 (8)
After Unrein’s leadoff homer in the opener, Trevor Henningsen added a two-run blast to stake Hays a 3-0 lead against Great Bend starting pitcher Bryce Beck.
But the Panthers rallied back with a four-run third for a 4-3 lead after Connor Sell hit an RBI single and then the right-handed-hitting Bowman followed by hitting a fly ball down the line that drifted over the 320-foot sign in right field for a three-run shot. It drove in Johnny Allende, running for catcher Eric Ruiz, who led off the inning with a single, along with Bryce Beck, who also singled, and Sell.
Hays built a 6-4 lead with three runs in the bottom of the third, highlighted by an RBI double from Zach Legleiter and a sacrifice fly by Chandler Rule.
But GBHS tied the game at 6 in the top of the fourth, getting RBI singles by Bowman and Matt Marshall, but the Tribe went ahead 8-6 after Unrein and Legleiter stroked doubles, with Kaus singling and Hayden Hutchison lifting a sacrifice fly.
After Hays stretched its lead to 10-6 in the fifth, thanks to a Sedbrook homer and an RBI single by Kaus, and that lead stood firm until the sixth when Bowman hit his second homer of the game to make it 10-7.
The Panthers must have had their rally caps on because they had another comeback in them in the seventh, tying the game by scoring their first run on a Hays throwing error by catcher Sedbrook, followed by RBI singles by Bryce Beck and Bowman to even things up at 10-10.
That set the stage for Kaus’ walk-off blast off GBHS reliever Braden Jones (1-1).
Hays 9, Great Bend 8
Great Bend pitcher Mitch Kottas pitched five strong innings, allowing just one run on two hits — a double by Rule in the second and an RBI triple by Henningsen in the third.
In the second, Great Bend led 2-0 after Sell’s two-run triple into the alley drove in Chad Touslee, who had earlier singled, and Bryce Beck, who walked.
The Panthers stretched their lead to 5-0 in the third after Bryce Hofmeister doubled home Matt Marshall, who led off the inning with a single. Dakota Conaway preceded Hofmeister with a single, and both Conaway and Hofmeister scored on Touslee’s two-run single.
GBHS led 7-1 in the fourth after Marshall singled in Bowman, who hit a one-out single, and Mitch Kottas reached on an error and later scored when Conaway reached on an error.
It was 8-1 in the fifth after Allende, running for Ruiz, scored on an error by Hays catcher Rule.
But Hays touched Great Bend and left-handed reliever Sell, who relieved Kottas, for four runs in the sixth, capitalizing on three Panthers errors.
In the seventh, Renz had a run-scoring single, Tyler Wooldridge drew a bases-loaded walk off Sell and then Unrein followed with his two-run double for the game-winner.
HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL
Western Athletic Conference
Hays 11, Great Bend 10 (8)
123 456 78 R H E
GBHS 004 201 30 — 10 13 1
Hays 303 220 01 — 11 15 3
Bryce Beck, Braden Jones (5) & Eric Ruiz; Austin Unrein, Chase Young (6) & Jake Sedbrook. W — Young. L — Jones (1-1). 2B — Hays: Unrein, Zach Legleiter. HR — Great Bend: Bowman 2 (2); Hays: Unrein (1), Trevor Henningsen (2), Jake Sedbrook (1), Riley Kaus (1).
Hays 9, Great Bend 8
123 456 7 R H E
GBHS 023 210 0 — 8 11 5
Hays 001 004 4 — 9 8 4
Mitch Kottas, Connor Sell (6) & Eric Ruiz; Hayden Hutchison, Tyler Wooldridge (6) & Chandler Rule. W — Wooldridge. L — Sell (0-1). 2B — Hays: Rule, Austin Unrein. 3B — Great Bend: Sell; Hays: Henningsen.