HAYS — This rivalry baseball game between Great Bend High School and Hays turned into a walk-a-thon on Thursday evening during the 2013 Hays Diamond Classic.
That is, when Hays’ pitchers Marcus Altman, Chandler Rule and Cameron Kaus struggled mightily in finding the strike zone. The Indians’ pitching staff issued eight walks, plunked five batters and committed four errors, as the Panthers walked away with a 9-4 non-conference win.
“One thing we do talk to our players about is taking what the other team gives us,” said fourth-year Great Bend head coach Randy Beck, whose team improved to 11-1 on the season, the best start in his tenure.
“If an opposing pitcher is not consistently in the strike zone, our hitters can get ahead in the count.”
The Panthers, who were never seriously threatened, scored three runs in the first, one in the second, four in the sixth and one in the seventh.
Panthers right-hander Braden Jones, who improved to 2-0, pitched a complete game, scattering eights hits and continually working himself out of trouble in only his second outing of the season.
“He was one of our top pitchers last year,” Randy Beck said of Jones, who posted a 3-2 record and 2.57 earned run average in 2012. “He had an arm injury early in the season, and we’ve been careful with him.”
Jones gives the Panthers a three-man rotation, something they haven’t had all season, with the postseason looming on the horizon.
First things first, however.
Great Bend takes on Goddard today at noon in the Diamond Classic, followed by a 4:30 game against Colby at Larks Park.
On Saturday, the Panthers meet Salina Central at 12:30 p.m. at Hays High.
Against Hays, Great Bend capitalized on wild pitching at the outset by Indians starter Altman. The Panthers were recipients of three hit batters in the first — Beck, Conaway and Touslee — to load the bases, and Hays paid for it dearly.
Brady Buehler followed by lacing a two-run single for a 2-0 lead.
“Brady has really been coming through with some big hits lately,” Randy Beck said.
Jones followed with an RBI single to arm himself with a 3-0 lead.
Hays (11-4) closed to within 3-1 in the bottom of the first after Chance Pitcock led off with a single and later scored on Rule’s RBI groundout to short.
Great Bend made it 4-1 in the second after Bryce Beck’s run-scoring double plated Bryce Hofmeister, running for Eric Ruiz, who led off the inning with a walk.
The Indians closed to 4-2 in the third on Rule’s sacrifice fly, driving in Pitcock, who led off with a single.
The Panthers sidestepped trouble in the fourth, getting an inning-ending double play after shortstop Beck fielded a grounder near the bag, stepped on second base and then threw to first to double up Cole Schumacher.
“Double plays can be momentum-changers,” Randy Beck said. “I guess that would be the best way to put that.”
Hays capitalized on a GBHS error in the fifth, closing the gap to 4-3 after Rule’s RBI double, driving in Pitcock, who led off the inning by reaching on a fielding error on Beck.
But the roof collapsed on the Indians’ pitching staff in the sixth as Great Bend put it out of reach with four runs. Three batters drew walks and two others were hit by pitches, as GBHS managed only a single in the inning.
Beck finished 2-for-3 at the plate and scored three runs. Dakota Conaway, Shade Wondra and Dillon Reiser also had base hits for the Panthers, joining Jones and Buehler.
Hays was without its top player, Neosho County Community College signee Hayden Hutchison, who was serving a team-imposed one-day suspension.
• Coming up — The Panthers, who sit atop the Western Athletic Conference standings with a 5-1 record, travel to Garden City on Tuesday with an opportunity to win the conference crown outright with a sweep of the Buffaloes ... Hays is in second place in the WAC at 4-2.
HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL
2013 Hays Diamond Classic
Great Bend 9, Hays 4
123 456 7 R H E
GBHS 310 004 1 — 9 7 2
HH 101 011 0 — 4 8 4
Marcus Altman, Chandler Rule (3), Cameron Kaus (6) & Jake Sedbrook; Braden Jones & Eric Ruiz. W — Jones (2-0). L — Altman. 2B — Great Bend (Bryce Beck); Hays (Rule).
2013 Hays Diamond Classic
Noon — Great Bend vs. Goddard
2 p.m. — Salina Central vs Goddard
4:30 p.m. — Great Bend vs. Colby
***(@ Larks Park @ 4th & Oak)
4:30 p.m. — Hays vs. Salina Central
10:15 a.m. — Colby vs. Goddard
12:30 p.m. — Salina Central vs. Great Bend
2:30 p.m. — Hays vs. Goddard
All games at Hays High unless noted otherwise