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Monarchs sweep Great Bend

By NICK McQUEEN

nmcqueen@dailynews.net

Thomas More Prep-Marian High School junior pitcher Shane Zimmerman is not one to complicate things. So, when he took the mound as the Monarch baseball team faced a four-run deficit against perennially tough Class 5A Great Bend on Thursday, his philosophy did not change.

"Just throw strikes," he said. "We were down, so just make the batter hit it -- get him out somehow."

What did change, though, was the flow of the game -- a massive momentum shift which boosted TMP to a doubleheader sweep of the Panthers, 9-7, 14-5, at TMP Field. It was the Monarchs' 16th and 17th straight victories since opening the season with a loss.

"To have a guy like that step up, and be able to have the confidence with him coming in..." Monarch fifth-year coach Brian Schumacher said. "I just can't say enough about how impressed I was with what he did tonight."

The Panthers (10-6) posted five runs in the second inning in Tuesday's opener against Monarch senior starter Pierce Schippers. The left-hander walked three, gave up four hits, and Great Bend looked well on its way.

Then Zimmerman (5-1) did what he's been doing well recently, and took command of the game. After TMP (17-1) scored its first run in the second on an RBI double by senior Dylan Gottschalk, Zimmerman took the hill in the third.

He struck out three of four batters faced and allowed a walk, then the Monarchs started their rally in the fifth -- putting on a one-through-nine hitting display that carried over into the nightcap. Zimmerman got it done at the plate, too. Recording his third hit of the game, Zimmerman drove in two runs against Great Bend junior reliever Matt Marshall, then scored the tying run on a two-RBI single by Gottschalk.

At one point in Tuesday's doubleheader, Zimmerman had recorded a hit in eight straight at-bats, going back to Tuesday's sweep against Larned.

"Just focus on getting a base hit," Zimmerman said. "I'm really not swinging for the fences or anything like that -- keep it simple."

With the score tied 5-5, Monarch senior Dylan Schumacher was hit by a pitch with one out in the sixth, senior Nick Hammeke walked, then Schippers flew out to center. Senior catcher Taylor Pfeifer than provided the punch for TMP, driving in the go-ahead run on an RBI single against Marshall. Senior Colby Schippers followed with a two-RBI single, then Zimmerman tacked on the final blow with a run-scoring single.

"They're doing such a nice job as far as quality at-bats -- putting the ball in play," coach Schumacher said of his club. "Even our outs, we had some hard-hit balls."

TMP struck out just once in the opener, putting up 11 hits, while Great Bend had seven hits, four coming in the second-inning run. Zimmerman had seven strikeouts against three walks and three hits and two runs as Great Bend attempted a late rally.

The Monarchs faced a similar game in the nightcap. Hammeke (5-0) fell into a 3-0 hole, but the Monarchs' offense was not going to be outdone. TMP tagged Great Bend junior Connor Sell for five first-inning runs on four hits and a Panther error to regain the lead -- the first four of 15 TMP hits in the game. After the second, Hammeke settled in, pitching six innings with six strikeouts against one walk.

Great Bend, playing without starting junior catcher Eric Ruiz after he suffered a concussion in Tuesday's split with Dodge City, tied the game back up in the second against Hammeke, but it was all Monarchs from there.

"All nine guys," Schumacher said. "Great Bend, year in and year out, is a very good ball club -- good fundamentals, good coaches.

"I was just impressed with the how well we stepped up, especially getting down 5-0, it could have been easy to give up and that could have carried over into the second game,” he added.

Instead, Zimmerman shut down the Panthers, and the Monarchs followed suit the rest of the way.

By the end of the night, TMP posted 26 hits, four doubles and two triples.

In that mix was a base-clearing triple for both Hammeke and senior Jacob Fouts, and three more RBIs for Zimmerman. Most importantly, the sweep secures the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye for the Monarchs in next week's Class 3A regional in Lakin.

TMP, runner-up the last two seasons in Class 3A, has one more doubleheader with Colby on Thursday to end the regular season.

Those games will not count toward the regional seeding.