While the doubleheader didn’t have postseason implications for Larned High School, the pair of non-conference baseball games meant a lot to the Great Bend Panthers.
With 2-1 and 5-3 wins at the Great Bend Sports Complex on Friday evening, the Panthers (15-4) earned a No. 2 seed and will host a Class 5A regional tournament on Tuesday at the Sports Complex.
Hays (15-5) and Goddard-Eisenhower (8-11) meet in Tuesday’s opener at 2 p.m., followed by the Panthers taking on Newton (6-12) at 4, The two winners meet at 6 for the right to advance to the state tournament next Thursday and Friday in Wichita.
“Our goal was to be a host team,” Great Bend head coach Randy Beck said. “We took care of our part by winning two games. We needed help from Maize South or Hays, and Hays lost a game (on Friday).
“It doesn’t do anything for us except give us a home game. We get to play on our home turf in front of our home crowd.”
Larned is already locked in as the No. 2 seed in its Class 4A regional tournament. It will host Ulysses on Monday at 5 p.m.
Game 1 was a pitcher’s duel between Larned’s Easton Palmer and Great Bend’s Braden Jones.
Jones pitched 6 1/3 innings, getting relieved by Tristan Hall. Jones scattered four hits while striking out two, walking three and hitting two batters.
“Braden threw another, back-to-back good games,” Beck said. “From the Hays game to this game. I think he’s going to keep getting better every time he has an outing.
“We’ve been depending on him and his arm late in the season. I think it’s really been paying off.”
Hall secured the save.
It was scoreless before the Panthers plated two runs in the fifth. Shade Wondra reached on an error to lead off the inning.
After Dakota Conaway got out on a fly ball to center field, Chad Touslee drew a walk. Johnny Allende grounded out, advancing both runners to set up Eric Ruiz.
Ruiz dropped a two-run single into right field to put Great Bend up 2-0.
Larned responded in the top of the fifth with Tyler Stelter leading off with a double. Trey Kraisinger moved Stelter to third with a sacrifice bunt before Evan Skelton was hit by a pitch and Landon Erway drew a walk.
Isiah Perez knocked in their only run with a sacrifice fly to left field.
“A layman person who watches that game says, ‘It was a close game, and Larned battled,’ ” Larned head coach Chad Erway said. “We had chances to win that game, to win both those games. That first game, our second baseman made an error and two unearned runs score off that. We had a guy caught in a rundown.
“Those are just basic baseball plays that we’ve got to make against good teams.”
Great Bend 5, Larned 3
Bryce Beck got the Panthers started in the first, drawing a walk.
Touslee drove an RBI single into center field, but he was caught trying to advance to second base on the throw to home.
Touslee got another RBI, driving in Bryce Hofmeister with a double in the third. Allende drove in Conaway, and Touslee was waved home, but Larned got the ball to catcher Stelter, who tagged Touslee out to end the inning.
Landon Erway scored for Larned in the top of the fourth after a throw from Great Bend catcher Ruiz got past Jones at third base.
Palmer followed that with an RBI double, scoring Perez.
Camryn Bryant grounded to Conaway at first base. His throw to Ruiz was too late to catch Palmer, who slid under Ruiz’s tag to tie the game at 3-3.
In the top of the fifth, Allende found himself in trouble after a lead-off single by Stelter, a balk and a sacrifice bunt put the go-ahead run on third base with one out.
Efren Vega hit a fly ball to Touslee in right field, whose throw to Ruiz was too late to catch Stelter. However, after an appeal from Randy Beck, the umpires decided that Stelter did not tag up on third base and called him out to end the inning still tied at three apiece.
“He’s had three starts (this season),” Randy Beck said of Allende. “Johnny threw it pretty good. He was in the zone quite a bit. I thought he had a quality game.”
Brady Buehler and Conaway each hit an RBI single in the bottom of the fifth to give the Panthers a 5-3 lead.