EMPORIA — Execution issues at the plate and defensive miscues have put the Hays Sr. Eagles in a precarious spot after Day 1 of the Class AAA State Legion Baseball Tournament.
The Eagles were in position to take their pool-play opener but surrendered the lead in the bottom of the sixth inning and couldn’t plate the tying run in the seventh, falling 4-3 to Nickerson on Wednesday at Soden’s Grove.
Trailing Hays by a run, Nickerson got a leadoff single from Kaden Evert in the bottom of the sixth and Evert later came home for the tying run after an errant throw to the plate. Carson Cornilous then scored the go-ahead on a passed ball.
“Bottom of the sixth, we really just gave them two runs,” Eagles coach Dustin Schumacher said. “Didn’t execute, didn’t make the right play. Those are things we shouldn’t be doing at this point in the season. But we did, and now we got ourselves in a little bit of a hole.”
The Eagles still had a chance to redeem themselves in the top of the seventh but couldn’t cash in after Palmer Hutchison’s one-out double. Hutchison moved to third on a passed ball and Trey Riggs drew a walk before Nickerson’s Grant Bolen induced a ground-ball double play to end the game.
Hays also missed out on a chance to score in the top of the sixth after failing to pull off a double-steal attempt.
“Just didn’t execute offensively,” Schumacher said. “Had a chance to score the in top of the sixth. Ran our third-and-first play, we make a late break, and instead of scoring easily, we end up getting thrown out at the plate.”
Thing started promisingly after Riggs gave the Eagles a 2-0 lead on a double in the fist, but Nickerson answered with two runs off an RBI single from Evert and Cornilous’ sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning.
Brady Kreutzer gave the Eagles a 3-2 lead with a single in the fourth but Hays left two runners in scoring position.
Cody Petersen tossed the first three innings while Riggs pitched the last four. The Eagles committed four errors and all four runs were unearned.
Hays finished with five hits while Nickerson had four.
“I thought we pitched it well but we didn’t play very good defensively,” Schumacher said. “And just poor execution on offense. Their pitchers weren’t anything we haven’t seen all year. To only score three runs, that’s just disappointing.
“If we win the game, it was set up the way we were wanting it to,” Schumacher added. “Cole (Murphy) was going to pitch out the last inning, and that way he was going to be available for Friday. It just didn’t quite work out the way.”
The Eagles, who may now need some help to advance out of pool play, will look to regroup against the Topeka Senators at 10 a.m. on Thursday.
“It was disappointing to come out the way we did,” Schumacher said. “We’ve got a veteran group. Yeah, we are fairly young. We’ve got a lot of younger guys on our team, but we’ve all been here before.
“To come out here with a total lack of energy the way we did, that was disappointing. We’ll wash out that effort and hopefully come out Thursday and give a better effort.”