A familiar pattern developed last season for the Great Bend High School baseball team.
The Panthers, who open their season today at 4 against Hoisington in a non-conference doubleheader at the Great Bend Sports Complex, played in streaks, putting together three four-game winning streaks while finishing 14-8 overall.
“We really played some good baseball during the first half of the season, starting 9-3, only to see some good pitching down the stretch to really challenge our offense,” said Great Bend head coach Randy Beck, reflecting on last season, whose team finished in a tie for second place in the final Western Athletic Conference standings.
“But we still put together a three-game win streak going into the playoffs. In the postseason, the first game was a nail-biter.”
In the regional at Goddard, Great Bend rallied from two runs down in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat Newton in the opening round.
But the Panthers lost to Goddard 8-0 in the title game to end their season.
Great Bend had a team batting average of .320 last season while limiting the opposition to a .275 clip. Two starters from last year’s pitching rotation are back in junior right-hander Bryce Beck and senior right-hander Braden Jones. They figure to be the starters in today’s doubleheader.
In 32 innings of work, Bryce Beck registered a 3-2 record, a 3.94 earned run average and totaled 14 strikeouts.
In 30 innings, Jones had 3-2 record, coupled with a 2.57 ERA and 16 strikeouts — the lowest of any returning pitcher and second-best to the graduated Mitch Kottas, who had a 5-0 record and a 1.70 ERA.
Third baseman-turned-first baseman Dakota Conaway batted .356 during the regular season in 2012, with 19 of his 21 hits being singles. He is one of only two players returning with a batting average above .300, as senior catcher Eric Ruiz batted .318, with 13 of his 14 hits being base hits.
Last year’s leading hitter, second baseman Jace Bowman (.480), who led the Panthers in five offensive categories, has graduated, one of several voids they must fill.
“I think we can be a good-hitting team,” Conaway said. “We’re not a power team, like Hays was last year, but we have guys that can hit the gaps and are good hitters.”
Like their pitching statistics, Bryce Beck and Jones had similar offensive numbers. Beck hit .293 last season, with 11 of his 12 hits being singles, and Jones batted .292.
When he isn’t pitching, Bryce Beck will play shortstop, where positions will also be occupied up the middle by Brady Buehler and Danny Herrman, along with Jones at third base, when he isn’t pitching.
Herrman and Mitch Johnson likely will also see time in the outfield, where Johnny Allende, Bryce Hofmeister and Chad Touslee have been penciled in.
NOTE — Great Bend’s scheduled season opener at Liberal, which was postponed on Tuesday because of inclement weather, has been rescheduled for Friday, April 12.