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TMP headed back to 3A tourney


Special to the Hays Daily News

LAKIN -- Poet Emily Dickinson wrote that the emotions of victory are felt more profoundly by the loser, not the victor.

Success was counted sweetest, then, by the Lakin Broncs, when their hopes for a state tournament berth were thwarted by Thomas More Prep-Marian Tuesday night, as the top-seeded Monarchs held on for a 4-3 win over the host team to earn their third straight trip to the Class 3A state tournament.

"It's a shame," Lakin coach Steve Davidson said following the loss. "That could have been the state championship game right there. Both those teams are good enough to be there."

TMP had an easy win in the 3A regional semifinals over Holcomb, while Lakin had to stave off a feisty Scott City team in extra innings just to get to the finals.

Ryan Swank pitched 1 2/3 innings in that semifinal win, striking out three, and he was also the starter for the Broncs in the finals, going up against senior Nick Hammeke, who was 7-0 with a 1.88 ERA.

For the better part of the game, though, it was Swank who was the dominant force, striking out six as the Broncs held a 1-0 lead, thanks to a sacrifice fly by Jordan Rosales to score Bryant Miller in the second inning. In the third inning, Hammeke appeared to be bothered by soreness in his back, but he stayed in the game, throwing 70 pitches by end of the fourth.

TMP tied the game in the bottom half of the fourth with two outs on Colby Schippers' single to right field.

The Monarchs struck again in the fifth, scoring three runs, again with two outs.

Dylan Lang walked to lead off the inning and advanced to second on Dylan Schumacher's sacrifice bunt. He moved to third on a wild pitch, but Shane Zimmerman struck out.

Hammeke singled him in to give TMP a 2-1 lead.

After Pierce Schippers walked, Taylor Pfeifer sent a double just down the right field line and drove in two more for a 4-1 lead.

Lakin rallied for two runs in the top of sixth inning. Logan Litton singled with one out, and an error on the shortstop with what looked to have been a double play ball kept the inning alive. Chandon Moreno singled past second for an RBI, and Reno Armstrong's force out at first scored another run.

Just like that, Lakin was down just 4-3.

Swank got the first Monarch on a come-backer then struck out the final two batters to finish with 12 strikeouts.

Hammeke got the first two Broncs out in the final inning before Shane Davidson got on base with a single then moved all the way to third on Kevin Dasenbrock's single up the middle on a 1-1 count.

With the tying run on third and go-ahead runner at second, Litton took three straight balls. After two strikes, he fouled off the next two pitches before ending the game with a pop up to first.

For Lakin, it was another case of coming up just a little short.

Lakin has been in the same regional as TMP the past three years, and all three times the Monarchs have come out on top.

"Our kids played their hearts out, battled back after they got those three runs," Davidson said.

"We had our opportunities and base runners and chances to make plays. It's going to come down to one play, one ball, one strike, one hit, one pop up--that's what it comes down to in a game like that."

Davidson was impressed with the senior Swank's performance after having done the relief stint in the first game.

"He looked a little tired in about the fifth inning and came back in the sixth and seventh--especially the seventh--and threw a heck of a game," he said. "He was throwing well."

Lakin out-hit TMP 8-5 and committed two errors, but it was the timeliness of the scoring that saved them, as did the arm of Hammeke.

"I can't imagine what they're going through, with as good of a club as they are," Monarchs coach Brian Schumacher said.

It was a great pitching battle with Hammeke (now 8-0) striking out five.

Swank, coming off injuries the first part of the season, kept TMP off balance much of the game, Schumacher said.

Hammeke threw well, too, despite the soreness.

"He got tight in his back. We were a little concerned if it had been something in the shoulder or the arm, obviously we would have had to do something. But it was in his back and he got it worked out, and Nick is a battler," Schumacher said. "We'd have played heck with him trying to get the ball out of his hand if we had tried to do something."

The Monarchs (22-1), with 10 seniors, never give up, coach Schumacher said, and it's now taking them to their third straight trip to state.

"This senior class has been part of two runners-up and our next trip back to state," he said.

Lakin (19-3) loses 10 seniors to graduation, and this is that group's third straight time to get to the threshold of state, just not over it.

Armstrong's home run in the semifinal game capped by Jarett Sauer's eighth inning game-winning single, set the table for a thrilling final game, Davidson said, and they were poised for a good final. Things just didn't work out.