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Eagles ready to play at home for WWF

By NICK McQUEEN

nmcqueen@dailynews.net

On June 2, the Hays Legion Eagles baseball team opened its season at Larks Park with a win against the Hays Monarchs. Two nights later, the Eagles defeated Russell, 9-5, at HHS Field.

That's the last time anyone saw the Eagles take the field in their hometown.

"It's been a long month," Eagles coach Brad Kelly said.

This morning in the Wild West Festival Tournament, the Eagles finally will get to play a home game after a 17-6 run through June that saw Hays play in three different tournaments, and have a handful of scheduled doubleheaders called off due to weather.

The Eagles were scheduled to play at Larks Park on Wednesday, but decided against it to keep pitchers fresh for this weekend's run in the WWF tourney. Hays plays Rock Creek in the 11 a.m. game today at Larks Park.

"Even yesterday, we had an opportunity to play a home game," Kelly said. "With our staff, we're kind of thin after last week in Oklahoma (a 4-1 tournament showing). We knew we had enough pitching to play one doubleheader, but we probably didn't have enough to do two."

Hays is coming off a road sweep of Great Bend in a doubleheader Tuesday, and has won six of its last eight games.

"I'm pretty pleased with where we're at," Kelly said. "I was really pleased with that Oklahoma tournament. I thought we faced some pretty good teams, and faced some pretty good pitchers. We handled them pretty well for the most part."

And with pretty much all of its pitchers rested, Hays feels confident it can make a good run in its home tournament, though the Eagles haven't been there much. The Eagles' only other scheduled home doubleheader in June with the Hays Monarchs called off.

"It will be nice to be at home and not have to travel five hours to get to a game."

Having played just one doubleheader this week, Kelly said the Eagles should have their full pitching staff ready to go with Kade Parker, Layne Downing, Cole Schumacher, Kaden Rohr, Brady Bieker and Marcus Altman all capable of making starts through the weekend. The pitching staff has combined for a 3.00 earned-run average and has struck out 93 batters in 147 innings. Downing is 4-0 with a 1.38 ERA in 25.1 innings. He leads the club with 25 strikeouts to 13 walks. Schumacher (5-0, 1.75 ERA) has struck out 20 to just nine walks in a team-high 28 innings. Brady Bieker has made a team-high eight appearances.

"We're good on that," Kelly said of the pitching rotation. "All our guys are ready to go. Marcus pitched on Tuesday, so we might have to pitch him later in the weekend.

"But, Kade, Layne, Cole, Kaden, all good to go. Even Brady Bieker pitched on Tuesday, but his count was low. So all our arms should be ready to go."

The offense hasn't been a slouch either. Parker leads the way with a .436 average, one of three Eagles hitting at least .403. Downing is at .426 and Zack Legleiter .403. That trio combines for 63 of the team's 153 RBIs.

"We can always improve. Eliminate errors, and maybe some base-running mistakes,"  Kelly said. "Our pitching can always be a little better, too, but for the most part, I'm pleased with how we've done and where we're at right now."

The tournament field is 16 teams, and the Eagles' pool includes two teams from Colorado and Rock Creek.

"It will be a good tournament," Kelly said. "Using the wood bats kind of equalizes things a little bit. It puts pitching at a premium, and maybe kind of lessens the impact good offensive teams have. You still have to pitch it, hit it and play sound defense."

Hays finished 4-1 in last year's tournament field.

Monarchs enter tourney 12-3

After the Hays Monarchs' 8-1 win against Ellis on Wednesday, the Monarchs take a 12-3 record into today's 11 a.m. opener at HHS Field against the Wichita Greys.

The Monarchs enter the tourney on an eight-game winning streak, and look to improve upon last year's 3-2 finish. The Monarchs also play against Canon City, Colo., in the 5 p.m. game at TMP Field.

"It's going to be a very good tournament, probably as good as it has been in a long time," Monarchs coach Dustin Schumacher said. "They'll be a lot of good teams there. Our pool is tough."

The Monarchs had some pitching questions Wednesday and were just going to wait and see whether or not Braiden Werth and Jared Vitztum were going to be available for play.

The Monarchs' offense is fueled by the play of Ryan Ruder, who is batting .500 in 13 games, and Jordan Gottschalk (.488 in 15 games). Gottschalk, Grant Romme and Ryan Schippers are the only Monarchs who have played in every game this summer. Before Wednesday, Hays went through a nine-day layoff because of a rainout.

"We'll see some good pitching I'm sure," Schumacher said. "Our guys will have to adjust at the plate. We've pitched really well this summer, but our guys are going to have to step it up even more."

The only pitching decision Schumacher made as of Wednesday was Kameron Schmidt (4-0, 1.34 ERA) would make the start in the last game today against Canon City.

Ellis (9-8) faces Erie, Colo., in the 3 p.m. game today at HHS Field, then faces the Wichita Canons' 17s at 7 p.m. at TMP Field.