Indians lose, finish second
By KLINT SPILLER
It was senior day, so it was fitting that the all-time winningest pitcher in Hays High School baseball history would take the mound
Saturday in what ended up being the championship game of the 30th annual Western Plains Diamond Classic.
Hays High senior pitcher Austin Unrein competed through tough situations and gave his team a chance to win in a battle between two of the top-five ranked teams in the state.
However, it was a senior from Goddard that simply was too much for Hays High, and the Indians lost 4-0.
Goddard senior pitcher Quintin Dougherty (4-0) threw a one-hitter and faced just three Indian batters in six of the seven innings.
Hays High head coach Frank Leo said Dougherty was “without a doubt” the best pitcher his team has faced this season.
“(J.W. Maldaner) from (Salina Central) had better velocity but Dougherty had placement,” Leo said. “He came inside and he came outside. He caught us off guard inside a couple times. His breaking pitch was good enough to get us out.”
Unrein (3-1) contained Goddard’s offense, holding the Lions (16-2) to just one run through six innings.
Unrein allowed four earned runs, seven hits and four walks, with five strikeouts, but he kept his team in the game.
At one point in the top of the fifth, the bases were loaded with one out, and he pitched himself out of it, striking out the next batter and forcing a pop out to right field.
“It kept us in the game,” Leo said. “He gave us a chance to win. He battled. They put pressure on him. He’d bend, but he never broke.”
Unfortunately for the Indians (14-2), they couldn’t break through Goddard’s defense and pitching.
Junior shortstop Hayden Hutchison was the only Indian to get a hit in the game, and it came in the first inning. From then on, Dougherty was lights out.
“It is a funny game,” Leo said. “Sometimes when you play the game, you think there are absolutely no holes out there.
“That was what we felt like offensively. We squared some up and never could find a ball to drop in the gap,” he added.
Goddard broke through in the top of the fourth inning.
Senior center fielder James Watkins hit a double, and junior first baseman Collin Nevil drove him home with a single to center field.
The Lions extended the lead in the top of the seventh.
Unrein gave up a hit and a walk with one out, and Hays High intentionally walked Nevil to give Unrein a shot at a double play and the bottom half of Goddard’s lineup.
However, it backfired, as the Lions got an RBI groundout and a two-RBI single past first base to give Goddard its 4-0 lead.
“This wasn’t the final game of the year,” Leo said. “That is the thing we talked about. We’ve got to learn from this. This was a quality club.”
Goddard was ranked No. 5 in the state heading into the contest according to the most recent coach’s poll. Hays High was ranked No. 3.
“We are excited about playing Hays because we know they are a great program,” said Goddard head coach Steve Sheahon.
Sheahon said his team, which is comprised entirely of upperclassmen with 13 seniors and three juniors, decided to stay at Goddard High School instead of going to the new school that was created this year, Goddard-Eisenhower.
“They wanted to have a memorable season,” he said.
They are having one.
With the victory, Goddard is now the front runner to get the top seed in the region because of the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Indians, and Hays High is the top contender to get the No. 2 seed and host a regional.
However, there are still games remaining, and the possible seedings could change.
“(The seniors) are going to have another day here,” Leo said. “If they take care of business next week, then it is going to be a bigger day than today was. If we can play well and go on to play in the state tournament, then we can keep competing.”
In the other two games of the day, Goddard defeated Colby 9-0, and Salina Central Central won 14-2 over Goodland in five innings.
Goodland (5-15) finished the tournament winless. Colby (13-3) went 1-3, and Salina Central (10-8) finished 2-2.