By JIM MISUNAS
NICKERSON – There is a silver lining in the dark clouds hovering over Great Bend’s baseball team.
Great Bend was swept by state-ranked Nickerson 4-3 in 10 innings and 13-5 Friday on a windswept afternoon that started in 70-degrees and ended in 36-degree chill temperatures.
The Panthers threw eight shutout innings in the opener only to lose 4-3 on a rarely-called balk call.
Great Bend delivered several hard-hit baseballs in the nightcap with no luck. Great Bend (5-5, 2-2 WAC) plays Dodge City (8-5, 2-3 WAC) at home Tuesday.
“We’ve got to be confident and play confident to work out of this funk we’re in,” said Great Bend coach Randy Beck. “We need to string some hits together.”
NICKERSON 4, PANTHERS 3 (10 innings) – Nickerson’s Chandler Eaton appeared to deliver the game-winning 10th-inning hit a second after an umpire signaled a game-ending balk on reliever Cory Burnham. Coach Beck said the umpire indicated Burnham failed to make a complete stop while delivering the baseball with the bases loaded.
Kaleb Jackson scored the game-winning run on the balk with two out after a single, passed ball and wild pitch. Kolbi Schrag and Braden Stewart were walked intentionally to load the bases.
The finish spoiled eight shutout innings by starter Payton Mauler and reliever Eduardo Bujanda, who combined for 11 strikeouts.
“Our pitching kept us in the first game,” Beck said. “Payton and Eduardo worked out of some tough situations. We played pretty good defense. We had guys on base and missed multiple opportunities to win that game.”
Great Bend’s Konner Ireland sparked the Panthers with a walk, two stolen bases and a first-inning run on Chandler Eaton’s throwing error.
Koy Brack started a two-run fourth inning with a double. Brice Kaiser drove in a run on a groundout. Ireland’s single drove home Logan Perry for a 3-3 tie. But shortstop Stewart alertly relayed to second baseman Carson Cornelius for a tag on Ireland, who overran the base a split second before Chance Perry scored the go-ahead run, which was nullified. The Panthers were hitless over their final six innings against starter Cameron Crandall and reliever Josh Salazar.
Mauler and Bujanda combined for six shutout innings after Jackson and Kolbi Schrag delivered RBI doubles in a three-run third inning. Jackson scored on a wild pitch for a 3-0 lead.
NICKERSON 13, PANTHERS 5 – Time-after-time, Great Bend delivered hard-hit baseballs, which were caught by Nickerson fielders. Payton Mauler’s wood-bat experiment delivered two base hits. Mauler, Ireland, Jesus Bujanda and Tristan Mitchell came up empty on hard-hit balls.
“We hit the ball well in game two, but we didn’t catch any breaks,” Beck said. “The lack of timely hitting hurt us. That’s the difference in the game.”
Mauler scored the Panthers’ first run on a fielding error. Brayden Smith’s two-RBI single drove home Chance Perry and Ireland. Shortstop Tanner Schrag snared Jesus Bujanda’s line shot with two on and two out.
Logan Perry’s single and Mitchell’s bases-loaded walk scored fifth-inning runs. Again, Ireland’s line shot was caught by centerfielder Josh Salazar.
Nickerson’s Austin Engelland drove in three runs and Jackson and Stewart each drove in two runs. Stewart’s two-run single was followed by Engelland’s RBI single in the first inning. Jackson and Engelland drilled two-run hits in a six-run third inning.
NHS 4, PANTHERS 3
GB 100 200 000 0 – 3 5 2
NHS 003 000 000 1 – 4 10 4
Mauler, Eduardo Bujanda (6), Burnham (10) and Brack. Crandall, Josh Salazar (7) and Eaton. W—J. Salazar. L—E. Bujanda. 2B—GB—Brack; N—Jackson, J. Salazar, Kolbi Schrag.
NHS 13, PANTHERS 5
GB 012 020 0 – 5 10 4
NHS 306 310 x – 13 11 4
Kaiser, Burnham (3), Jesus Bujanda (4) and Brack. Stewart, Garcia (7) and Eaton. W—Stewart, 4-0. L—Kaiser. 2B—GB—Kaiser; N—Jackson.
WESTERN ATHLETIC BASEBALL
Liberal 1-0 9-0
Hays High 3-3 6-4
Great Bend 2-2 5-5
Garden City 3-3 6-6
Dodge City 2-3 8-5
Nickerson 4-13, Great Bend 3-5
Hays High 4-4, Dodge City 3-12
Liberal at Ulysses
Garden City at Liberal
Dodge City at Great Bend