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Panthers knocked out of contention for conference crown
spt mm Kottas confers
Great Bend senior pitcher Mitch Kottas (right) confers with catcher Eric Ruiz about how to pitch to a batter during the second game of a doubleheader split with host Dodge City at Demon Field Tuesday night. - photo by Mack McClure Great Bend Tribune

DODGE CITY — Denied a shot at the Western Athletic Conference baseball championship, the Great Bend High School Panthers find themselves trying to enhance their regional seed.
The Panthers split a road doubleheader with Dodge City Tuesday night at Demon Field, losing 8-1 in the first game before bouncing back to capture the nightcap 3-2.
“It’s frustrating,” said Great Bend right-hander Mitch Kottas, who scattered only four hits in the narrow win in the second game. “We came out (in the opener) and we looked like we were asleep.
“We just weren’t ready. We felt like we woke up in the second game after we knew we had to play.”
Dodge City is now 9-6 overall and 5-1 in conference play. Great Bend’s mark is now 10-4, 3-3.
“Mitch has been our ace all year long and he was in the zone an awful lot,” Randy Beck said of Kottas, who improved to 3-1 on the season. “I think he only had one walk on the day.
“He’s just our go-to guy and when we have him on the mound, he throws a lot of strikes and keeps our defense on our toes. It kind of all works together.”
The Panthers pounced on Dodge City pitcher Jordan Doan for two runs in the first and held off the Red Demons the remainder of the game.
Connor Sell led off Great Bend’s first by getting hit by a pitch and then Jace Bowman followed by lacing a double to right-center, advancing Sell to third base. After Matt Marshall hit an RBI groundout, scoring Sell, Kottas reached on an error, forcing in Bowman with the second run.
Dodge City chopped the Panthers lead in half at 2-1 after scoring a single run in the third. Austin Weiser reached on an error with one out, advanced to third on Taylor Murphy’s base hit and scored on BJ Tieben’s sacrifice fly.
Great Bend tacked on what proved to be the eventual winning run in the fourth for a 3-1 lead. Eric Ruiz led off with a walk and Jonathan Allende came on as a courtesy runner at first base. Chad Touslee, who was 2 for 3 in the nightcap, followed by reaching on a fielder’s choice, with Allende scampering to third.
Wyatt Bayless then followed with a sacrifice fly to right to drive in Allende.
Dodge City tried to close the gap in the fifth. Andrew Baldarez led off with a single and stole second. Damian Salem then followed with an RBI double to left-center, knocking in Baldarez to make it a one-run game.
Kottas then got Weiser to hit into a fielder’s choice, with Salem, the potential tying run, forced out at third for the first out.
After Kottas got Murphy on a groundout, he walked Tieben before retiring Dakota Duckett on a fly ball to left to get out of the inning.
“I was just throwing strikes, keeping the defense ready and getting ground balls,” Kottas said. “Knowing that our bats were a little quiet, I needed to come out and tried to shut them down.
Dodge City 8, Great Bend 1
With one swing of the bat, the Red Demons seized command in the opener.
Doan socked a three-run home run over the fence in left field during the first inning, and Dodge City built a 7-1 lead en route to the win.
“Dodge City is a good team,” Randy Beck said, “but we didn’t play up to our potential. That’s probably my fault for not getting them ready, mentally, to play today.
“If we would have a gotten a sweep here, we still would have been in the hunt for a WAC title, but unfortunately, that didn’t happen. The wins mean more for our (Class 5A) regional games right now at this point in the game. We’re sitting at the No. 3 spot (as a regional seed) and we need to keep things rolling.”
Duckett’s two-run single in the second made it 5-1, and the Demons capitalized on a pair of Great Bend errors for a pair of runs in the fourth to extend their lead to 7-1.
Dodge made it 8-1 in the fifth after Doan reached on a single and later scored on Baldarez’s fielder’s choice, with Doan beating a throw to the plate.
Right-hander Bryce Beck (3-1) went the distance for the Panthers, losing his first decision of the season.
Baldarez retired nine of the final 11 batters he faced after inducing Ruiz into hitting into an inning-ending double play in the fourth. Baldarez was aided by a sparkling diving catch by second baseman Collin Gifford on Dakota Conaway’s sinking liner to get out of the inning.
The Demons were speed demons on the base paths, helping their cause with five stolen bases through the first five innings.

Western Athletic Conference

At Dodge City
Demon Field


Dodge City 8, Great Bend 1

         123  456 7     R  H  E
GB    100  000 0 — 1  4  4
DC    023  210 x — 8  5  1
     Bryce Beck & Eric Ruiz; Andrew Balderaz & BJ Tieben. W — Balderaz. L — Beck (3-1). 2B — Great Bend: Braden Jones, Connor Sell. HR — Dodge City: Jordan Doan.

Great Bend
     Sell: 1-3, 2B; Jace Bowman: 1-3; Matt Marshall: 0-2; Dakota Conaway: 0-1, BB; Mitch Kottas, BB: 0-2; Eric Ruiz: 1-3; Braden Jones: 1-3, BB, run, 3 RBIs; Bryce Hofmeister: 0-3; Bryce Beck: 0-2.

Great Bend 3, Dodge City 2
         123 456 7       R  H  E
GB    200 100 0  —  3  5  1
DC    010 010 0  —  2  4  1
      Mitch Kottas & Eric Ruiz; Jordan & BJ Tieben. W — Balderaz. L — Beck (3-1). 2B — Great Bend: Jace Bowman; Dodge City: Damian Salem.

Great Bend
    Sell: 2-for-2, BB, HBP, run; Jace Bowman: 1-3, 2B, run; Matt Marshall: 0-4, RBI; Dakota Conaway: 0-3; Mitch Kottas: 0-3 Eric Ruiz: 0-1; Jonathan Allende: run; Chad Touslee: 2-3, Wyatt Bayless 0-2, SF, RBI; Bryce Hofmeister 0-2.