BY JIM MISUNAS
LIBERAL — Great Bend waited until post-season to play its best baseball game of the season.
The Great Bend Panthers celebrated a shocking day – back-to-back upsets over state-ranked Salina Central 3-0 and Liberal 2-0 Tuesday on the Redskins’ home turf to qualify for the 5A state baseball tournament.
Panther pitcher Dalton Bieker matched Colin Hall’s opening shutout with a two-hit gem that baffled the Redskins. Bieker and Hall mixed and matched fastballs, curveballs and changeups to throw 14 shutout innings.
Great Bend head coach Randy Beck said assistant coach Mike Stettinger crafted a masterful game that the pitchers executed on a pitching friendly day with the wind blowing in.
“Colin and Dalton pounded the strike zone and kept them off balance,” Beck said. “They threw great games and hit their spots. We played well defensively behind them. We played good fundamental baseball today.”
The Panthers (9-13) qualify for the 5A state tournament for the first time since 2009 at Wichita’s Eck Stadium after stunning Salina Central (14-7) and Liberal (16-6). Great Bend captured 5A baseball titles in 1995 and 1998.
Beck believed the Panthers were capable of playing two quality baseball games.
“The guys did a great job coming in loose and putting two baseball games together. We put it all together today,” Beck said. “We’ve played well at times during the season.”
GREAT BEND 2, LIBERAL 0 – Eddie Bujanda broke up a scoreless game with a two-run sixth-inning double that scored Alex Schremmer and Koy Brack.
“That was a huge hit by Eddie Bujanda,” Beck said. “We had timely hitting and made the most of our opportunities today.”
Schremmer reached on a throwing error and Brack walked off hard-luck loser Tucker Deaton.
The pitchers and defense dominated for 51/2 innings. The Panthers’ only baserunners reached scoring position on Liberal errors.
Bieker stranded Alex Yanez and Dylan Thompson in scoring position in the second and seventh innings. The other key play occurred when Cesar Burciaga was thrown out on the bases in the first inning.
Great Bend 000 002 0 – 2 2 2
Liberal 000 000 0 – 0 2 2
Bieker and Brack. Deaton and Terrazas. W—Bieker 2-1. L—Deaton. 2B—GB—E. Bujanda.
GREAT BEND 3, SALINA CENTRAL 0 — Panther pitcher Colin Hall threw a 88-pitch gem and the Panthers’ defense turned an amazing three double plays to upset state-ranked Salina Central. The Mustangs shut out the Panthers 10-0 earlier in the season.
Second baseman Riley Smith sparked the double play magic on a first-inning double play liner by Ethan Kickhaefer.
Hall pitched out of a bases-loaded situation when right fielder Dalton Bieker threw out Brogen Richardson at home plate on Paving’s second-inning fly ball.
Shortstop Alex Schremmer turned the trifecta with a 6-3 double play on Brogen Richardson’s sixth-inning groundball.
The Panthers found a way to score three runs despite hitting into a double play and seeing two baserunners get thrown out on the bases.
Calan Haberman drove home Schremmer on a third-inning sacrifice fly after singles by Schremmer, Riley Smith and Townshend Kurth loaded the bases.
Smith’s two-out single scored Chance Perry, but Schremmer was thrown out at home to end the fourth inning. Chance Perry’s RBI single drove home Koy Brack after a hit-by-pitch and sacrifice bunt by Eddie Bujanda.
Kurth was doubled up on Brack’s first-inning liner. Bujanda was thrown out at second base on a missed bunt attempt.
Great Bend 001 101 0 — 3 7 1
S. Central 000 000 0 — 0 2 3
Hall and Brack. Speer, Beatty (6) and Dix. W—Hall, 3-0. L—Speer.