The Hays High baseball team spotted Great Bend a couple runs in the first inning of the nightcap Thursday in the Western Plains Diamond Classic, but Hays pitcher managed Cody Petersen minimized the damage.

Then, Petersen and the Indians came up with quite the answer in the bottom of the inning. 

Hays High exploded for nine runs in the first frame en route to a 10-4 victory over the Panthers at HHS Field. The Indians went 2-0 on the first day of the Diamond Classic, beating Wichita Word of Life 19-0 Thursday afternoon.  

“I thought Petersen did a really great job of minimizing that inning and then that was a big answer,” Hays High coach Frank Leo said. “I was proud of how they came back and put up a nine-spot and then played good defense the rest of the game.”

The Indians (10-4) opened the bottom of the first with three straight singles from Hunter Brown, Willie Sennett and Palmer Hutchison. Trey Riggs then drew a bases-loaded walk to plate Hays' first run, and Cole Murphy was hit by a pitch two batters later to bring in another. 

Petersen helped himself with a three-run double. The inning also featured a two-run double from Brown and an RBI single from Hutchison. 

“It’s real fun when that happens,” Petersen said. “We all just feed off each other.”

Petersen gave up runs in the second and third innings but settled in and shut down the Panthers in the later innings. He went 6 2/3 innings, allowing four runs (three earned) and nine hits while walking two and striking out three.

“I felt pretty confident all game,” Petersen said. “The first inning was a little rough. But I came back and still felt confident. I just tried to keep throwing strikes.”

Leo said it was an impressive showing for Peterson, who notched his longest outing on the mound this season. 

 “That’s a tremendous pitching performance by him,” Leo said. “He didn’t pitch much last year as a sophomore. He showed us that he’s made a stride this year. We’ve pitched him in two-inning stints here and there. Tonight, he was well extended above two innings, which was good for us to see. That’s an arm now that we know we can throw more than two innings."

Brown, Sennett, Hutchison and Riggs each had two hits for the Indians. 

The defensive highlight came in the fourth inning when Hutchison tracked down a blooper in shallow left field from his shortstop position and made a diving catch.

“Palmer’s was a fantastic play. That could have led to some runs that inning,” Leo said. “He came out of nowhere and laid out and made a big play.

“Now, where we need to improve on is those soft fly balls going between our infield and outfield. Someone’s got to take charge and go hard. We’ll talk about that and try to get that fixed, but I’m very pleased with the whole effort tonight.”

The start of the Hays-Great Bend game was pushed back about 45 minutes after rain and lightning briefly hit the area.

The Indians will play the nightcap in the Diamond Classic again on Friday, facing Salina Central at 7:15 p.m.