SABETHA — In Saturday’s Class AA State Legion semifinal, Hays Sr. Monarchs’ coach Ryan Post saw his team put together the same kind of at-bats that the Monarchs have thrived on all summer long.
Unfortunately, several standout defensive plays from Iola kept the Monarchs from being able to capitalize on all the solid contact.
Hays was kept at bay by the Indians in key spots, ending its season with an 8-3 loss at Somerset Park.
“Whenever we did put a good ball in play, they made the play,” Post said. “We’d barrel up a ball and they’d made a diving play. They just did what they needed to do.”
Trailing 5-0, the Monarchs put together one last charge, plating three runs after RBI singles from Creighton Renz, Adam Gottschalk and Cole Zimmerman. Eston Brown then drove one to deep left field with the bases loaded but it was caught for the third out.
Iola tacked on three more runs in the top of the seventh before retiring the Monarchs in order to end the game.
One of the biggest defensive plays came in the bottom of the fifth when Iola shortstop Derek Bycroft made a diving catch in shallow left to prevent a Monarchs’ run.
“With this group, there’s always a chance,” Post said. “One good ball in play gets this group going. All it would take would be that one, and I thought it was going to be that little blooper over the shortstop, but he made a diving play on it. But we were able to get it going in the next inning after that.”
The Monarchs were also hurt by two throwing errors that brought in three runs. The Monarchs had an Iola player in a rundown at third in the fourth before a throw sailed into left field and scored two runs to extend Iola’s lead.
Zimmerman and Chase Werth split pitching duties for Hays. Zimmerman went three-plus innings before reaching the pitch count limit for the weekend. He allowed five runs on five hits. Werth went the rest of the way, allowing three runs on six hits.
The Monarchs, who came up short in their bid for back-to-back AA state titles, went 2-2 in the tourney and ended the year 17-6-1.
“I think they took what they learned over the past four or five years and they brought it out here this summer,” Post said. “They put on good performances all throughout this summer.”
Post said several Monarchs who are now moving on to college leave behind good legacies, both in summer and spring ball. Thomas More-Prep Marian was the Class 3A state baseball runner-up this past season.
“I think maybe in the last 10 years, at least in baseball, for sure, they haven’t had this much success with one particular class in a long time,” Post said.