After blowing a 7-2 lead in the top of the sixth inning, where Thomas More Prep-Marian tied the game with five runs, Great Bend responded in a big way.
The Panthers answered back with five runs in the bottom of the sixth and went on to post a 12-8 win in the first game of a non-conference high school baseball doubleheader on Thursday evening at Al Burns Memorial Field.
Great Bend rode the wave of its opening-game, late-inning surge, completing the sweep with an 11-4 win in the nightcap. It was the fourth win in the last five games for the Class 5A Panthers, who improved to 12-4 overall.
TMP-Marian, the top-ranked team in 3A by the Kansas Baseball Coaches Association, drops to 14-4. It is the first time the Monarchs have been swept in two years.
“Our pitchers did a really good job tonight,” Great Bend head coach Randy Beck said. “They were in the zone early and often and when that happens, you get a lot of routine plays.”
At the plate, the Panthers’ Landon Leuenberger finished the two games with seven runs batted in, including three-run doubles in each game. Cole Smith was 4 for 4 in the nightcap with three singles. He also had an RBI double during their five-run fifth to help break it open. Leadoff-hitting shortstop Logan Buehler reached base eight of his nine plate appearances in the two games.
“We hit the ball real well from No. 1 to No. 9,” Beck said. “The good thing about it is that we saw some good pitching, we competed well, got ourselves in good hitting counts and got some clutch hits.”
In the opener, Smith lined a tiebreaking single up the middle with one out in the sixth, driving in Buehler for an 8-7 lead, the beginning of the end for the Monarchs. The Panthers’ Darien Blackwill added a two-run triple down the right-field line for a 10-7 lead, and Leuenberger singled home Blackwill to make it 11-7. Matt Marshall, who also singled in the inning, scored on a wild pitch to make it a 12-7 ballgame.
Marshall captured the win in relief of Nick Ney, who pitched shutout ball for four innings.
“It was good for him to get back into his rhythm again,” Beck said of Ney, who had struggled early in games as of late. “He lost a little confidence there. His last couple outings were a little shaky. It seemed like he was the old Nick Ney we know tonight.”
Ney gave up two runs in the fifth and then exited after running into trouble in the sixth. TMP-Marian scored five runs in the inning to tie the score, capitalizing on a trio of Great Bend errors and keyed by Jacob Fouts’ leadoff triple.
Trailing 1-0, TMP had an apparent 2-1 lead after Fouts hit a two-out, two-run triple in the second. But Beck came out of the dugout and pointed out to the umpires that Fouts was incorrectly listed on the lineup card as his uniform number being No. 8 instead of his No. 6. Fouts was called out, his two RBIs were taken off the scoreboard and the Panthers came out of the inning unscathed.
Great Bend added six runs in the fourth for a 7-0 lead, capped by Leuenberger’s three-run double. Blackwill led off the inning by reaching on an error and Jeff Pike singled to put runners on first and second. Marshall then reached on an infield error to load the bases, setting the table for Leuenberger’s bases-clearing extra-base hit. The other three runs came across via a passed ball, a fielder’s choice and an error.
Great Bend 11,
The Panthers seized early momentum by scoring three runs in the first and gradually built on it, ultimately surging ahead 11-3 after scoring five runs in the fifth. The onslaught was highlighted by Leuenberger’s three-run double.
Left-hander Connor Sell pitched six strong innings for the Panthers. He scattered eight hits and struck out two batters while keeping the Monarchs in check.
“I thought Connor Sell pitched a really good ballgame,” Beck said of the junior, who gave way to left-handed reliever Stefan Bennett in the seventh. “Getting our pitching staff back on track was No. 1 on our list tonight.”
Besides Smith’s 4-for-4 ouput, Marshall also reached base in all four of his at-bats, hitting a single and a double, drawing a walk and reaching on a fielder’s choice.
Buehler was 2 for 5 and scored three runs, and Leuenberger finished 2 for 4.
The Panthers, who had 16 hits, including four doubles, recorded a pair of double plays in the nightcap, topped off by a 6-4-3 twin-killer to end it.
Great Bend will be idle before hitting the road for a couple doubleheaders next week before making preparations for sub-state play. It will travel to Garden City to wind up Western Athletic Conference play on Tuesday and then travel to Scott City on Thursday for a makeup doubleheader that was postponed earlier in the season because of inclement weather.
“A lot of times when you go into the postseason, it’s about momentum and how you’ve been playing as of late,” Beck said. “We’ve talked a lot about that and we want to be playing our best baseball at the end of the season.
“We’ve been playing pretty good the last couple doubleheaders.”
Great Bend 12,
Thomas More Prep-Marian 8
123 456 7 R H E
TMP-Marian 000 025 1 — 8 10 4
Great Bend 100 605 x — 12 10 6
Pierce Schippers, Krayton Werth (6) & Taylor Pfeifer; Nick Ney, Matt Marshall (6) & Landon Leuenberger. W — Marshall. L — Schippers. 2B — TMP-Marian (Werth, Pfeifer); Great Bend (Logan Buehler, Leuenberger). 3B — TMP-Marian (Jacob Fouts).
Great Bend 11,
Thomas More Prep-Marian 4
123 456 7 R H E
TMP-Marian 002 010 1 — 4 7 1
Great Bend 311 150 x — 11 16 2
Nathan Zimmerman, Nick Hammeke (5) & Taylor Pfeifer: Connor Sell, Stefan Bennett (7) & Landon Leuenberger. W — Sell. L — Zimmerman. 2B — TMP-Marian (Hammeke 2); Great Bend (Matt Marshall, Darien Blackwill, Leuenberger, Cole Smith). 3B — TMP-Marian (Hammeke).