Monarchs run into buzz saw in first round
By AUSTIN COLBERT
PRATT -- When Iola got its first two batters on base in the third inning, the Hays Monarchs were once again teetering on the edge of ruin.
They survived the inning without giving up a run, even after the Indians had loaded the bases with two outs. But the Monarchs still trailed 4-1 and couldn't get on base themselves.
Without any offense to back up an already shaky defense, it seemed as though a total collapse was inevitable.
"When you are letting the first two guys on without an out, you are flirting with disaster, and that's what happened in the fourth inning," Monarch coach Dustin Schumacher said. "It just kind of snowballed."
Iola scored seven runs in the fourth inning, most without an out, to force the run-rule in an 11-1 win against Hays in the first round of the Class American Legion AA state tournament at Green Sports Complex.
The loss sent the Monarchs (18-14) into today's elimination bracket of the double-elimination tournament. They were set to play Wellington today at 10 a.m., while Iola faces Concordia at 6 p.m. in the winner's bracket.
It didn't take long for the Monarchs to find reason to worry against Iola.
Levi Ashmore singled up the middle on the first pitch of the game against Monarch starter Pierce Schippers. A wild pitch against the second batter, Trent Latta, moved Ashmore to second. Latta then singled as well, allowing Ashmore to score, giving Iola a 1-0 lead before an out was recorded.
Hays tied the game when a Ryan Schippers fly out scored Taylor Rome, who had reached base after being walked.
Braiden Werth had the only hit of the inning against Latta, Iola's starting pitcher, and that also turned out to be the only hit of the game for the Monarchs.
Latta struck out six Monarch batters and didn't allow a base runner after the first inning, feeding off his team's offensive success in the process.
"The offense helped me out and we beared down," Latta said. "It takes pressure off of me and I feel like I can take any pitch I want, anytime."
Iola's first two batters got on base in the second inning, when a swing by Eric Heffern drove both home to make it 3-1 Indians. Ashmore would make it home a few batters later, and Iola looked to do more damage before Monarch center fielder Taylor Wasinger made an amazing diving catch to end the inning.
"The effort wasn't bad -- it's not like we kicked the ball around," Schumacher said. "We were swimming upstream the whole time."
A pair of third-inning walks by Hays almost proved costly, but a couple of fly outs evened things out and the Monarchs managed to make it into the fourth inning still trailing 4-1.
That's when everything came unglued for the Monarchs.
Ashmore was hit by a pitch to open the inning and quickly stole second base before Latta was walked. After a pitching change from Schippers to Werth, Iola's Mason Coons singled to load the bases with no outs.
A batter later, Derrick Weir's single scored two runs, and the onslaught was on. It was 10-1 Iola before Hays recorded an out. An Ashmore fly out made it 11-1.
Needing to score to avoid the run rule, Hays went down in order in the bottom of the fourth to end the game.
"We kind of ran into a buzz saw on the mound and they can swing it," Schumacher said. "We just kind of got a numbers lesson today."