BY MIKE MARZLOF
Special to the Tribune
The Great Braves performed like five-inning wonders at the Class A American Legion State Baseball Tournament. But the final two innings were a nemesis for the Braves.
In both state tournament losses, Great Bend played very well for five innings. But those final two innings were not kind to the Braves.
That was the case against the Olathe Royals in an 8-2 loss that ended the Braves’ season in the second round of the loser’s bracket Friday at the Great Bend Sports Complex.
Arkansas City repeated as Class A state champions with a 10-5 victory over the Buhler Nationals Sunday. Arkansas City (27-12) beat Buhler (20-14) in two of three games at state. Arkansas City also won the 2015 Class A state title with a 9-1 victory over Doniphan County. Arkansas City beat the 2014 state champion McPherson 8-7 in the semifinals. Arkansas City also beat Buhler 8-0 for the Class A Zone championship.
Buhler won the winner’s bracket finale 12-2 behind Josh Salazar’s three hits and two RBIs. Adam Schrag drove in three runs. Sweet earned the victory.
Arkansas City returned the favor with an identical 12-2 victory over Buhler Saturday afternoon to force a second championship game. Andrew Brautman drove in four with three hits. Steele Sarnacki drilled a two-run homer. Hunter O’Toole drove in two runs. Caden Gonzales was the winning pitcher. Buhler’s Adam Schrag drove in two runs.
OLATHE ROYALS 8, BRAVES 2 — In Great Bend’s season-ending loss, the Braves and the Olathe-based Kansas Royals were tied after five innings of play. But the final two innings saw the Royals put six runs on the board to pull away for the win.
That was similar to Thursday night’s loss to Buhler as well. In the final two innings of the two losses at the tournament, the Braves were outscored 13-0.
In the contest Friday, Great Bend fell behind 2-0 as the Royals scored single runs in each the first and third innings.
Great Bend cut that lead to 2-1 in the bottom of third when Brooks Nichols drove the ball over the center fielder and to the wall. Nichols ended on third with a 2-out triple. Brayden Powell followed with a single to left to cut the lead to a single run.
The Braves tied the game in the bottom of the fifth. Cory Burnham hit a hot shot to shortstop that was misplayed, putting the Braves leadoff batter of the inning on. Kaleb Blazek followed with single to put runners on the corner then Nichols hit another towering fly to center that scored Burham and evened the game.
Unfortunately it didn’t stay tied for long.
In the top of the sixth the Royals used five hits — four singles — to plate two runs. The Braves minimized the damage as the Royals left the bases loaded.
Down 4-2, Dalton Bieker put some life back in the Braves in the bottom of the sixth with a two-out triple to right-center. Blaine Mermis followed with a walk to put runners on the corner, but that is where the rally ended.
The Olathe Royals took the air of the Braves with four more runs in the top of the seventh to extend the lead to 8-2.
Great Bend were retired in order in the bottom of the inning to end its season.
CLASS A STATE
GREAT BEND SPORTS COMPLEX
Game 15—10 a.m.—Championship Game 2 (Buhler Nationals 20-13 vs. Arkansas City 26-12)
Game 13—Arkansas City 9, Salina Hawks 0
Game 14—Championship game 1, Arkansas City 12, Buhler Nationals 2
Game 9—Salina Hawks 10, Chanute 0
Game 10—Olathe Royals 8, Great Bend Braves 2
Game 11—Buhler Nationals 12, Arkansas City 2
Game 12—Salina Hawks 10, Olathe Royals 2
Game 5—Olathe Royals 14, Marysville 3
Game 6—Chanute 13, Doniphan County 5
Game 7—Arkansas City 12, Salina Hawks 5
Game 8—Buhler Nationals 7, Great Bend Braves 3
Game 1—Salina Hawks 8, Marysville 0
Game 2—Arkansas City 10, Olathe Royals 0
Game 3—Buhler Nationals 12, Chanute 9
Game 4—Great Bend Braves 14. Doniphan County 4