By NICK McQUEEN
Playing a team with the tradition of Wichita/Kapaun Mt. Carmel in the season opener, longtime Hays High School baseball coach Frank Leo knew he would have to have one of the youngest clubs in his tenure ready Thursday at Indian Field.
For the most part, Leo was pleased with what his team was able to accomplish in a season-opening split with the Crusaders.
"It's not a game you can work some things out," Leo said. "You better have those things worked out before the umpire says 'Play Ball.' "
However, it took a save from an Indian player who only had practiced for one week prior to the opening doubleheader to help Hays High salvage the split.
Senior Kade Parker, a member of Hays High's state-qualifying basketball team, threw just one session with pitching coach Keith Harper, but managed a two-inning save in a 7-5 Game 2 victory. The Indians lost 3-2 in the opener, dropping a solid start for senior ace right-hander Layne Downing.
"Kade Parker is going to be good for us," Leo said. "He was very good today. He came in and bailed us out."
The Indians jumped out early in the nightcap with three runs after three singles to open the game. Sophomore Connor Rule drove in a pair of runs in the first inning, and later drove in another as Hays High (1-1) eventually built a 7-1 lead.
Game 2 sophomore starter Marcus Altman started struggling with control in the fourth, and ended up with five walks. Senior reliever Brady Bieker came in, and allowed three runs (only one earned) after a bobbled double-play ball at second base.
"This year we had more questions than we've had the past several years," Leo said. "Six new position guys. I was concerned with how we were going to communicate defensively."
Parker, though, pitched the final two innings. He struck out two, but did give up one run. He sent Kapaun away, though, in order in the seventh.
"He's just a fierce competitor," Leo said of Parker, who also had four hits and scored two runs in the doubleheader. "He's been out a week. He swung it well today, and pitched it well today with very little time in the bullpen."
In the opener, Downing was perfect through four innings. He retired 12 straight with only one strikeout, and Hays High had built up a 2-0 lead. The second run came on a wild play where junior Adam Klaus was caught in a rundown between first and second for the third out. It gave Parker, though, time to score from third for the 2-0 HHS lead in the fourth.
Kapaun, though, got its first hit against Downing in the fifth, and scored its first run on Hays High's only error.
Leo was happy though with the Indians' defense.
"Very pleased with this bunch," Leo said.
"You can see we can run and we can bunt a little bit.
"We've got to do that. We can't rely on the big hit all the time, and I think we'll have to build on that."
Kapaun tied the game in the sixth against Downing on a pair of hits. Downing made it into the seventh, but the go-ahead run came across for Kapaun on a passed ball with two outs.
Hays High got sophomore Cole Schumacher to third in the bottom half with two outs, but junior Garrett Pfannenstiel struck out to end the threat.
"We had good preparation for this game," Leo said. "That wasn't an easy opponent."
Hays High will be at home again Thursday against Pratt in a 4 p.m. doubleheader at Indian Field.