GODDARD — Quintin Dougherty took control early and never let up.
The Goddard High School Lions right-hander silenced Great Bend on a two-hit shutout in a Class 5A regional baseball championship-seizing 8-0 blanking of the Panthers on Tuesday night.
Great Bend (14-8) closes its season. Goddard (19-3) begins preparations for the state tournament in Wichita, which starts in nine days.
Dougherty struck out nine batters through six innings of work before giving way to Lions left-hander Alex Shoemaker, who struck out two batters in the seventh as they closed the book on Great Bend’s season.
“Their pitcher did a really good job,” said GBHS head coach Randy Beck of Dougherty. “I wish we could have competed a little bit better at the plate than what we did, and I sure hate to see the seniors go out this way.”
Several of Dougherty’s strikeouts came via called third strikes.
“Not to take anything away from him, but we really didn’t hit like we’re capable of hitting and I was a little disappointed in how we competed at the plate,” Randy Beck said.
Great Bend got its first hit in the fourth when Jace Bowman laced a single to left after Matt Marshall led off the inning by reaching on an error.
The Panthers didn’t get their second hit until Connor Sell led off the top of the sixth with a single. They later loaded the bases but came away empty, a microcosm of their fortunes.
Goddard, leading 2-0 after two innings, took command with four runs in the third, highlighted by an RBI double by James Watkins, a sacrifice fly by Jacob Baca, a run-scoring single by James Lawson and an RBI groundout by Trey Douglas.
Armed with a 6-0 lead, the Lions were able to complete their shutout.
“In the postseason, it’s win or go home and we came here to win it,” Randy Beck said. “Unfortunately, we’re going home.”
It was the final prep game for Panthers seniors Bowman, Sell and Mitch Kottas, mainstays on the team.
“It’s going to be a tough pill to swallow,” Kottas said. “I’ve been playing baseball with Jace and Connor for so long.
“We’ve still got summer baseball, but it’s going to be tough.”
Great Bend 6, Newton 5
Time and again in regional semifinal action, Great Bend and Newton wasted golden scoring opportunities.
After Newton built a 5-3 lead, scoring a single run in the top of the seventh, the Panthers answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning, capped by Bryce Hofmeister’s bases-loaded suicide squeeze, driving in Mitch Johnson from third base for a walk-off win.
“We got our nine hole up and there were no outs,” Randy Beck said. “But we wanted to put the pressure on them and with the top of our order coming up, I thought it was a win-win situation right there.
“Anything can happen. We didn’t swing it really well, but we found a way to win and that’s the postseason. You find ways to win and keep advancing, game after game.”
Kottas started Great Bend’s improbable rally by leading off by getting hit by a pitch. Dakota Conaway punched a single to shallow right-center, the only ball the Panthers hit out of the infield during their final-inning comeback. Eric Ruiz then laid down a bunt down the first-base line, but Newton reliever Jacob Bartel threw wildly on the play, loading the bases.
Bartel then came unglued, hitting Braden Jones and Chad Touslee in succession, driving in Kottas and Conaway with the fourth and fifth runs and reloading the bases for Hofmeister with Johnson, the courtesy runner for Ruiz, the eventual winning run standing at third.
“I was taking until I got a strike,” Hofmeister said of his deciding at-bat. “On a squeeze, you have to hit it, even if it’s not a strike.
“I just tried to get it down anywhere I could.”
The Panthers (14-7), stranded 12 baserunners in the game, including 10 through the first six innings. They totaled only three hits, but took advantage of wild pitching by Newton’s and made plays when it counted most.
Great Bend’s early struggles left it scrambling late, and it was as easy as counting 1-2-3. They stranded one runner in the first, two in the second and left the bases loaded in the third.
All the while, they managed only one hit during that stretch, a Bowman single in the first. They seized a 2-1 lead in the second without getting a hit, capitalizing on two walks and Touslee getting hit by a pitch.
Bryce Beck, a courtesy runner for Ruiz, who earlier walked, scored the first run when Hofmeister reached on an error on an infield grounder. Touslee scored the second run.
Kottas (5-0) pitched a complete game in gutting out the win for the Panthers. The senior right-hander, who has committed to Barton Community College, scattered eight hits and struck out three batters.
CLASS 5A REGIONAL
Goddard High School
Goddard 8, Great Bend 0
123 456 7 R H E
GBHS 000 000 0 — 0 2 4
GHS 204 020 x — 8 8 2
Bryce Beck, Braden Jones (5) & Eric Ruiz; Quintin Dougherty, Alex Shoemaker (7) & Jacob Baca. W — Dougherty. L — Bryce Beck. 2B — Goddard: James Watkins.
Great Bend 6, Newton 5
123 456 7 R H E
NHS 101 200 1 — 5 9 3
GBHS 021 000 3 — 6 3 4
Ben Wright, Keil Stauffer (2), Jacob Bartel (7) & Austin Crumrine; Mitch Kottas & Eric Ruiz. W — Kottas (5-0). L — Bartel. 2B — Newton: Bartel. 3B — Newton: Ben Koerner, Keil Stauffer.
Goddard 4, Valley Center 2