Monarchs win seventh straight
By AUSTIN COLBERT
Earlier in the summer, the Hays Monarchs Legion baseball team would shoot itself in the foot, committing errors and failing to come through in key at-bats with runners on.
But now, amid a seven-game win streak that includes Monday's doubleheader sweep of Larned, 8-0 and 11-2, at TMP Field, those mistakes seem to be in the past.
"Unless you can string three or four hits together ... we are not hurting ourselves right now with the walks or the errors. That's been the biggest thing here lately," Monarchs' coach Dustin Schumacher said.
"We aren't giving anybody a chance. You are going to have to string some hits against us, string them together to score any runs. Pitchers are throwing strikes; we've walked very few people. We are not striking a ton of people out, but we are making plays."
The Monarchs continued the high level of play against Larned, getting big hits when needed, being stingy on defense including a couple of double plays, and riding their pitchers to complete-game performances, the sixth and seventh consecutive complete games by Hays, though both were five-inning run rules.
Kameron Schmidt, playing in his first game since June 12 at Dodge City because of a basketball camp, earned the win on the mound for the Monarchs in Game 1. He allowed only three hits and one walk, while striking out four Larned batters, to improve to 3-0.
The Monarchs led 2-0 after the first inning in Game 1, both runs coming on a single by catcher Jordan Gottschalk to score Ryan Ruder and Grant Romme. A sacrifice fly by Ruder in the third inning made it 3-0, and a fielder's choice from Justin Pfeifer in the fourth scored Ryan Schippers to push the lead to 4-0.
The score remained until the fifth, when the Monarchs pushed across four more runs to set the run rule.
"That's been the biggest thing: we haven't been very efficient at times. And tonight, when we had people on, we moved them over," Schumacher said. "Did a lot of running; bunted some people over. Guys came up with people in scoring position and we got those hits with two outs or one out or whatever. We got it done at the plate and it's good to see."
Gottschalk's two RBI on 1 of 3 hitting led the way in Game 1. Schippers and Schmidt led the team with two runs each.
The offensive onslaught continued in Game 2 with the Monarchs getting two runs each in the first and third innings to lead 4-1 entering the fourth. Larned added its second run in the top half of that inning before Hays lit up the scoreboard with seven runs in the bottom half.
A single and a pair of walks loaded the bases for Ruder, whose short blooper into right field brought home the first two runs of the inning.
Ruder scored two batters later off a Gottschalk double, making it 8-2. A bases-loaded walk of Ricky Hockett scored the ninth run, with the final two runs brought home on a Schmidt single.
Hays shut down Larned in the top of the fifth to put the run rule into play for the third straight game.
"I was just trying to protect and found a spot in the outfield. Was pretty happy with that," Ruder said of his bases-loaded, two-RBI single in the fourth inning.
"We are just trying to eliminate some of the mistakes we previously made and just play smarter baseball. Just putting the ball in play and trying to make things happen."
Ruder was among the offensive leaders in Game 2, going 2 for 3 with two RBI and two runs. Schippers also was 2 for 3 with two RBI and three runs.
Braiden Werth (2-0) allowed two hits and two earned runs to go with one strikeout and one walk.
"We definitely put it all together tonight and played good defense," Schumacher said. "Ricky (Hockett) made a lot of really good plays out there at short. Pitchers threw strikes and we hit when we needed to."
The Monarchs, now 11-3, next play a 6 p.m. doubleheader Wednesday at Pratt.