In an unusual twist of fate on Thursday, Great Bend played its first high school baseball games at the new City of Great Bend Sports Complex as the visiting team against non-conference opponent Hoisington.
Heavy rains on Wednesday night necessitated the Panthers’ season opener to be moved from Hoisington to their home ballpark after the Cardinals’ field was deemed unplayable.
After pushing the scheduled 4 p.m. start of the doubleheader to 5, the two teams traded momentum swings in a extra-inning opener that lasted 2 ½ hours, finally ending in 10 innings after Connor Sell’s two-run double broke a 4-4 tie in the top of the inning to rally Panthers to a 6-4 victory.
Hoisington went down in order in bottom of the 10th as reliever Bryce Beck got the save for winning pitcher Mitch Kottas after retiring the Cards on a trio of ground balls to third base.
“It’s a good day to play baseball,” GBHS head coach Randy Beck said. “This is our first doubleheader, and we’ve been waiting a long time to do this.
“Whether we’re at home or a visitor on our home field, it doesn’t make any difference to us. We’re just happy to play.”
In the second game, a four-run uprising in the ninth by the Panthers broke a 2-2 deadlock, propelling GBHS to a sweep.
After having a shaky first inning in the opener, where Hoisington built a 3-0 lead, Kottas locked in after that and scattered nine hits for the game in nine full innings of work. He recorded four strikeouts and had some solid defensive play behind him.
“Mitch threw one heckuva game,” Randy Beck said. “He gave up three runs in the first inning, but only one of them was earned.
“We had a couple errors that kind of extended their inning, but he settled in and threw a really nice game and he was in the zone an awful lot. He threw extremely well.”
Kottas said he was glad to finally get the season started.
“You’re still trying to get used to field and then we found it,” Kottas said. “The defense helped a lot. If you can get ground balls here, especially, you can have some success.”
The Panthers, who fell behind 3-0 in the bottom of the first, scored one run in the fifth and two in the seventh to send the game into extra innings.
After a scoreless eighth, GBHS then scored the go-ahead run in the ninth for a 4-3 lead after Jace Bowman singled and later scored when Kottas reached on an error on Hoisington shortstop Trent Schremmer.
But Schremmer doubled into the alley in left-center field with one out in the bottom of the ninth. He scored the tying run on Dylan Bell’s base hit, deep on the infield, knotting the score at 4.
Hoisington touched Kottas for three runs in the first, getting RBI singles by Colton Zink and Bryce Steiner, followed by Cory Umphrey’s sacrifice fly to center.
Bowman had a pair of singles and a double in three at-bats. Dakota Conaway and Bryce Hofmeister had singles, while Sell’s two-base hit was the difference.
Braden Jones led off the 10th by getting hit by a pitch, and Mitch Johnson came on as a courtesy runner. Johnson advanced to second on Eric Ruiz’s sacrifice. After the second out was recorded, Hofmeister was hit by a pitch before Sell followed with his eventual game-winning hit.
“Connor finally got a good at-bat with runners in scoring position and that was the difference in the game,” Randy Beck said of Sell. “We left the bases loaded twice earlier in the game and couldn’t get that big base hit.
“Our kids persevered and never said die. We just outlasted them, I guess.”
Great Bend 6, Hoisington 2 (9)
In the nightcap, strikingly similar to the opener, the Panthers finally got over the hump in the ninth.
Right-hander Bryce Beck, who came on in relief of left-handed starter Sell, got the win after keeping the Cards scoreless over the next four innings.
Hoisington (2-2) led 2-0 in the fifth after getting RBI singles from Terry Crawford and Eric Simpson.
Great Bend finally tied the game at 2 in the seventh, capped by Bowman’s base hit.
While Bryce Beck retired the final nine batters he faced, the Panthers finally got the wheels turning in the top of the ninth.
Sell and Bowman led off the inning with back-to-back walks and Matt Marshall reached on an error to load the bases.
After Kottas flew out for the first out, with Sell holding at third, Bryce Beck then lifted a sacrifice fly, scoring Sell for the eventual winning run and a 3-2 lead.
Dakota Conaway singled home Bowman with the second run for a 4-2 lead, and Marshall and Conaway also scored to fix the final margin.
The Panthers get back into action on Friday, April 13, playing host to Scott City in a non-conference doubleheader.
The first game starts at 4 p.m.
HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL
At Great Bend
City of Great Bend
Great Bend 6, Hoisington 4 (10)
123 456 789 10 R H E
GB 000 100 201 2 — 6 6 2
HH 300 000 001 0 — 4 9 2
Mitch Kottas & Eric Ruiz; Kaleb Larson, Terry Crawford (7), Cory Umphrey (10) & Bryce Steiner. W — Kottas (1-0). L — Umphrey. 2B — Jace Bowman, Connor Sell.