The Great Bend High School Panthers finally got to Hays right-hander Austin Unrein late in the first game of a Western Athletic Conference baseball doubleheader on Thursday afternoon at Al Burns Memorial Field.
But not before Unrein pitched five innings of no-hit ball against the Panthers in seizing a 4-0 lead. Logan Buehler broke up Unrein’s bid with a bad-hop single up the middle to lead off the sixth, and then Great Bend had a seventh-inning rally come up shy in a 4-2 loss.
The Indians, 8-2 overall, including 6-0 in the WAC, completed the sweep with a 15-0 victory in three innings as game two was stopped because of the run-rule.
Great Bend, which came into the game unbeaten in eight games, falls to 8-2, 2-2.
Hays rode the wave of Unrein and the long ball in the opener. Unrein homered to left-center to lead off the game, and Jarrett Sanders and Daniel Braun hit back-to-back homers in the fourth — all off starting pitcher Nick Ney (2-1) — to stake the Tribe a 4-0 lead. Sanders’ was a two-run shot.
“I think the biggest problem with our pitching staff was that we got behind in the count and we had to come with the fastball,” GBHS head coach Randy Beck said. “(Hays was) able to sit on that pitch and when they can do that, you know, that’s tough.
“They’re definitely in the driver’s seat (in WAC play). They’re a good team, they hit the ball well and they have arms on the mound to keep them in the game, even if they’re slumping at the plate a little bit. They’re just a quality team.”
Unrein finished with a complete game, although the Panthers made it interesting in their final at-bat.
“He was getting his off-speed stuff over the plate and then he would surprise us a little bit with his fastball,” Beck said of Unrein. “When he throws two or three pitches in the zone effectively, that really keeps the batters on their toes.”
After Buehler’s infield hit in the sixth, the Panthers had runners on first and second and only one out but came up empty.
In the seventh, Great Bend’s Mitch Kottas drew a one-out walk and after the second out was recorded, Cole Smith doubled to right-center to put runners on second and third. Landon Leuenberger then responded with a two-run single to right, chopping the deficit in half at 4-2.
But pinch hitter Sam Hafner was retired on a fielder’s choice ground ball to third, with Brent Stoss, running for Leuenberger, getting forced at second to end the game.
“We felt like we were in that game and I knew it was only a matter of time before we started stringing a few things together,” Beck said. “We had some good quality at-bats at the end of that game and I thought our kids never gave up.
“We were in a position to tie it up or possibly win it.”
The nightcap found Hays scoring six runs in the first, chasing GBHS starter Darien Blackwill, who was relieved by Kottas with nobody out.
Kottas, Jace Bowman and Stefan Bennett all pitched for the Panthers in the second, where Hays exploded for nine runs.
Sanders had two doubles and Casey Sedbrook and Riley Kaus each had one two-base hit in the second inning alone. Three of those were ground-rule doubles.
Bennett faced five batters, retiring the final four he faced.
Hafner managed the Panthers’ lone hit in game two with a single in the third, breaking up Sedbrook’s bid at an abbreviated no-hitter.
Great Bend returns to action on Tuesday, when it travels to Wichita to play Word of Life in a doubleheader, starting at 4:30 p.m.
In junior varsity action, Hays swept GBHS 15-5 and 11-1. Both games were stopped after five innings because of the 10-run rule.
WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
At Great Bend
Al Burns Memorial Field
Hays 4, Great Bend 2
123 456 7 R H E
Hays 100 300 0 — 4 9 1
GBHS 000 000 2 — 2 3 0
Austin Unrein & Jarrett Sanders; Nick Ney, Matt Marshall (4) & Landon Leuenberger. W — Unrein. L — Ney. 2B — Great Bend (Cole Smith). HR — Hays (Unrein, Sanders, Daniel Braun).
Hays 15, Great Bend 0 (3)
123 R H E
Hays 690 — 15 10 0
GBHS 000 — 0 1 2
Casey Sedbrook & Jarrett Sanders; Darien Blackwill, Mitch Kottas (1), Jace Bowman (2), Stefan Bennett (3) & Landon Leuenberger. W — Sedbrook. L — Blackwill. 2B — Hays (Sanders 2, Sedbrook, Riley Kaus).