BY JIM MISUNAS
The Great Bend Braves are a living nightmare for the Hays A baseball teams. The Braves completed a sweep of Hays baseball with a 16-10 victory over the Hays Thomas More Prep Monarchs in Wednesday’s A championship game at the Great Bend Sports Complex.
The Braves (14-15) labored for 51/2 hours to join the Larned Indians at the Class A state Legion baseball tournament at Topeka July 24-28.
“When we lost our first game to Hays, I told our guys that one team would come out of the loser’s bracket. It might as well be us,” said Great Bend coach Randy Beck. “I had a good feeling. I had faith in all those guys.”
The Braves scored 47 runs in four games to overcome inconsistent fielding. Chayse Gruber batted .643 (9-14) and Paco Hernandez hit .538 (7-13).
“Our guys executed. The guys hit aggressive early in the count, but were patient when they needed to be,” Beck said. “Our pitchers did a good job.”
The Braves overcame their defensive miscues by focusing on the next play.
“We did a lot of things well. I was super proud of them,” Beck said. “They have bought into our team concept. They believe in what we’re doing and playing together.”
An 11-5 lead narrowed to 11-9 when the Braves scored five valuable insurance runs for a 16-9 lead after six innings. Sage Koelsch delivered a two-run triple. Koelsch scored on an error. Joseph Moeder drilled a two-run single for a 16-9 lead.
Brave Jade Poe scored on a first-inning run on a wild pitch for a 1-0 lead. The Monarchs scored three unearned runs when Jacob Pfeifer and Kade Harris scored on errors. Nick Helget scored on a groundout for a 3-1 lead.
Great Bend’s Gavin Haberman scored on a second-inning bases-loaded walk. The Monarchs’ Tyson Dinkel scored on Kade Harris’ sacrifice fly and Jace Wentling scored on a third-inning error for a 5-2 lead.
Poe delivered the game-changing hit with a bases-loaded triple that scored Joseph Moeder, Stefan Spray and Koelsch for a 6-5 lead. Brad Beck singled home Poe. Hernandez singled home Mathew Moeder for an 8-5 lead after three innings.
Braves’ shortstop Sage Koelsch turned the key defensive play by turning Jace Wentling’s fourth-inning liner into a double play.
Gavin Haberman and Esten Moore scored on Kade Harris’ error for a 10-5 lead after four innings. Haberman singled home Hernandez for an 11-5 lead.
The Monarchs rallied with a four-run sixth inning. Mark Rack, Tyson Dinkel, Jace Wentling and Jacob Pfeifer delivered RBI singles for an 11-9 score. Reliever Hernandez retired Carter Newell to trigger the Braves’ celebration.
Hays-TMP 032 004 1 — 10 12 5
GB Braves 116 215 x — 16 9 6
Harris, Herrman (2), Harris (6), Herrman (6) and Wentling. Poe, Hernandez (6) and Beck. W–Poe. L–Harris. 2B–GB–Haberman; H–Pfeifer; 3B–GB–Poe, Koelsch.
A STATE QUALIFIERS July 24-28
Topeka Senators 25-8
Topeka West 18-11-1
Salina Hawks 20-12
Great Bend Braves 14-15