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HHS baseball 1-1 in first day of tourney

By NICK McQUEEN

nmcqueen@dailynews.net

Too many free passes. Not enough clutch hits.

Makes a tough day for any team.

That's exactly what happened for the Hays High School baseball team in the nightcap of the first day of the 31st Western Plains Diamond Classic at Indian Field on Thursday.

For the second time in a week, Hays High suffered a loss to Western Athletic Conference rival Great Bend, falling 9-4 to go 1-1 in the first day of their home tournament.

Great Bend, which moved to 11-1, was the beneficiary of 13 free bases from the Indians, plus capitalized on four Hays High errors.

"You're not going to win any ball games when you walk 13," Hays High coach Frank Leo said. "That's too many free passes. Not only that, we were behind in the count a lot."

Plus, without standout hitter senior Hayden Hutchison in the lineup for two games Thursday due to disciplinary reasons, Hays High struggled to muster much with runners in scoring position. The Indians left seven runners stranded (five in scoring position).

"When you're fighting to come back, someone has to step up and get the big hit," Leo said.

Great Bend made the most of its opportunities. Indian freshman Marcus Altman hit three of his first four batters faced, and all came around to score in the first inning.

Altman walked two more in the second, and Great Bend took a 4-1 lead.

Great Bend, whose only loss is a 16-0 mercy-rule at the hands of Hays High in Game 1 of a doubleheader last week, has now won two straight against the Indians. That came after Hays High was up 6-0 in the second game last week.

"Just a few breaks went our way," Great Bend coach Randy Beck said of the last two meetings. "When you have two good teams battling it out, it seems like the little things make a big difference.

"After our first game, I think we settled in, got a little confidence going, and figured out we could play with these guys."

Hays High (10-4) chipped into the Great Bend lead. Senior Chandler Rule, who hasn't pitched much since his freshman season, came on in relief of Altman in the third after the freshman's sixth walk (or hit batsmen), and Rule worked three scoreless innings. His RBI double in the fifth inning pulled Hays High to within 4-3, but the Indians left two stranded in the inning.

"When you get in clutch situations, you have to get good at-bats," Leo said. "If we need a shutdown inning, we have to get out there and get a shutdown inning -- make the plays on defense."

Things went south for Rule in the sixth. He gave up a single and a walk, then had an error on a bunt attempt that scored two runs from first and second. The ball sailed into right field.

"The inexperience on the mound helped us out today," Beck said. "We're going to take what any team gives us. If it's hit batsmen or walks, we'll take it, and just build on that."

He then recorded a strikeout, but walked one and hit a batter before handing the ball to junior Cam Klaus.

"I thought (Rule) did a tremendous job,"  Leo said. "He just ran out of gas, then he hurt himself a little bit on the bunt play.

"I can't complain about the effort he gave us on the mound," Leo added. "He kept us in the game."

Down 8-3 heading into their half of the sixth, Hays High still had a chance against Great Bend senior Braden Jones (2-0). Jones hadn't pitched much this season since suffering an arm injury, but managed the complete-game win.

Zack Legleiter, who didn't start against Great Bend due to some recurring back issues, had an RBI single in the inning, but Hays High left runners at second and third on a pop-up to end the threat.

Senior Chance Pitcock had a solid game, going 3 for 3 in the leadoff spot, and scored three of the Indians' runs. Rule drove in a pair of runs, the first on a sacrifice fly in the first inning. Hays High outhit Great Bend, 8-5.

"We have some guys who can compete," Leo said. "They have to learn how to get after it, and control the emotions.

"Baseball is a game where you have to stay focused, and you can't let one play or one call ruin your day."

Hays High is back on the field at 4:30 p.m. today against Salina Central. The Indians and Mustangs each defeated Colby on the first day. Hays High won 16-1 in three innings, and Salina Central won 12-2.

Hays High 16, Colby 1

The Indians were on the receiving end of some rough pitching in the first game of the tournament. Colby (9-7) walked two and hit two batters in the first inning as Hays High took a 3-0 lead, and then Hays High put up 13 runs in the second inning to set the run-rule.

Three different Colby pitchers combined to walk five and hit five batters. Meanwhile, Hays High junior Kade Parker and junior Layne Downing each drove in four runs. Parker had a pair of two-RBI singles, and Downing had an RBI double and a base-clearing triple. Senior Dan Bittel also drove in a pair of runs on back-to-back singles in the second inning.

This is Colby's final year of competing in the Diamond Classic. The Eagles play Great Bend at 4:30 p.m. today at Larks Park.