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HHS set for Diamond Classic

By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

Hays High School senior Hayden Hutchison said it hasn't felt like his baseball team has played a true home game this year.

The Indians (9-3) received a new turf infield during the offseason, but they haven't had a chance to show it off since the outfield has been in such poor condition due to the drought. They've avoided using the outfield as much as possible to allow it to fill in, and it finally has greened up and filled in a bit during the past couple weeks.

Indian Field still isn't perfect. There are patches where the grass is sparse, especially in center field, but it's playable -- perfect timing for the Western Plains Diamond Classic.

"We haven't got to play on it yet," Hutchison said. "We are really excited. We've been playing at Fort Hays and out of town all year, so to finally play at our actual home where we've been practicing all year, it's exciting for us. We are anxious to get out there."

The Indians are scheduled to open tournament play and debut their new turf infield with a pair of games Thursday at Indian Field.

They'll open the tournament with a game against Colby (9-5) at 1:30 p.m. and end the day Thursday against Great Bend (9-1) at 7 p.m.

The elementary school McRun will occur before the nightcap at 5:45 p.m.

Hays High coach Frank Leo said he expects it to be a fun environment, especially ending the first day against the Indians' rival Great Bend, who they split a doubleheader against last week.

However, the temperatures are supposed to be in the 40s Thursday.

"Hopefully the weather is good and we get a nice crowd out here," Leo said. "As usual, Mother Nature is going to play tricks on us again, but you know, we've played in cold weather. As long as its not unbearable, we've got to get this in. There's no make-up dates."

Hays High will end the tournament with games against Salina Central at 7:15 p.m. Friday and Goddard at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

The Indians not only will showcase their new field, they also will showcase their revamped squad led by their prolific playmaker, Hutchison.

Hutchison is putting up video game-like numbers, batting .622 with a 1.054 slugging percentage and .708 on-base percentage. Leading the squad with 10 doubles, he's already near his doubles record from last season of 16 and he surpassed Austin Unrein as the career doubles leader early in the season.

"I think the first couple of years, I was just kind of dipping my foot in the water, and in the past year, I've felt more comfortable and relaxed," Hutchison said. "I felt like I didn't have to prove myself. I just had to go out and compete. I've got no weight on my shoulders."

Not only that, but if Hutchison keeps hitting like he has, he will break the single season record for batting average of .522 set by Jay Sanders in 2009, on-base percentage of .667 set by Clayton Karst in 2006 and slugging percentage of 1.000 set by Jay Sanders in 2009.

"Our offense is built around Hayden, but Hayden can't be successful unless guys get on base," Leo said. "That's the key to our offense, getting on base and letting the middle of the lineup (bring them in), and our middle of the lineup has been really good -- all three of those guys (Hutchison, Zack Legleiter, Chandler Rule). "