There’s still much more to play for.
Denied a Western Athletic Conference championship outright, the Great Bend High School baseball team is setting their sights on building some momentum for the Class 5A postseason.
And, it starts today, as the Panthers play host to Larned, 14-4 overall, in a regular-season-ending doubleheader for both teams. The first pitch for the opener is 4 at the Great Bend Sports Complex — weather permitting.
“The first thing we have to do is bounce back and get a couple wins against a pretty darn-good Larned team,” said Great Bend head coach Randy Beck, “so we’re definitely not taking them lightly by any means.
“Plus, those two games kind of propel into next week, which is when the second season really starts, and from there on out, you win or go home, so we’re hoping to build on Thursday and win for the rest of the season.”
Regional play begins Tuesday. Seedings are made based on won-loss records.
The Panthers, 13-4, wound up sharing the WAC title with Hays as both teams finished the conference slate with 6-2 records.
Garden City, behind the pitching of right-hander Edgar Montoya, edged the Panthers 3-2 on Tuesday evening for its first conference victory after Great Bend hammered the Buffs 14-3 in five innings in the opening game of the doubleheader.
Meanwhile, Hays, 14-2, pulled even with the Panthers at the top of the standings after sweeping Liberal at home on Tuesday, 8-2 and 9-0. Hays junior Layne Downing threw a no-hitter in the nightcap, where he walked only two.
Maize South is currently ranked No. 1 for seedings for 5A regional play, followed by Hays and Great Bend.
“We’ve worked all year and it’s been a couple years since we’ve beaten Hays two out of three (including a WAC split and a Great Bend win over the Indians in the Hays Diamond Classic last Thursday) and we finally did it this year,” Great Bend catcher Eric Ruiz said. “We just figured, ‘Hey, lets take the WAC while we’re at it.’ ”
But Montoya and Co. crashed the Panthers’ party on Garden City’s senior recognition night.
“That’s all it was in that last game (against Garden City),” Ruiz said. “We beat ourselves.”
Ruiz sat out a couple games during last weekend’s Diamond Classic nursing a sore back. But the left-handed-hitting senior appeared rejuvenated at the plate against Garden City, going 4-for-5 during the doubleheader split, including a double.
“I’m seeing the ball a lot better, said Ruiz, who used a 2012 bat against Garden City instead of a 2013 model he’s been using all season, “and there’s nothing better than hearing your team in the background, cheering you on.
“I think that’s what it was.”
Hays Diamond Classic
Sean Maruo, Goddard
Collin Nevel, Goddard
Mark Vaughan, Salina Central
J.W. Maldaner, Salina Central
Matt Rowe, Salina Central
Luke Cox, Colby
Bryce Beck, Great Bend
Jonathan Allende, Great Bend
Hayden Hutchison, Hays
Kade Parker, Hays
Chandler Rule, Hays
Layne Downing, Hays
MVP — Chance Pitcock, Hays High