Legion wins wild game Saturday
By CONOR NICHOLL
The Wild West Fest tournament, like most summer baseball tournaments, has a few rule quirks to change the game up slightly, allow more player involvement, and speed up the game. At the WWF, teams are allowed to bat 10 players and can use both an extra hitter and designated hitter, a tactic the Colorado Bandits deployed against Hays Senior Legion on Friday. On Saturday, another rule came into play.
Hays and Paola were tied at two after seven innings. In the eighth, teams start with runners on first and second and no one out. As well, squads can pick where they want to start in the batting order. The different rule produced three Paola runs in the top of the eighth. Hays started the inning with leadoff hitter Clayton Basgall, scored four runs in the bottom and pulled off a 6-5 victory at Larks Park. The Eagles won Pool A with a 3-0 record and Paola finished second at 2-1. Hays moved to 18-11 and Paola dropped to 18-6.
"I know some tournaments use it just so you don't have nine, 10, 11 inning games," coach Brad Kelly said. "As far as where you started, it all kind of depends. Going last has an advantage, because you get to see what they do. Once they scored three, we knew that we needed to start at the top of our order."
The finish marked a back-and-forth, thrilling contest where both teams had multiple chances to take control or win the game. The Panthers' Hunter Locke and the Eagles' Clayton Basgall each tossed complete games. Paola scored two first-inning runs on a walk, two singles to right field and two errors. Then, Basgall (3-0) didn't allow another hit until the sixth. Hays tied the game in the third on a two-out, two-run single from Layne Downing.
"We have got some good, young arms," Paola coach Curtis Murdock said. "Hunter did a phenomenal job keeping us in the game. I thought offensively, we had a lot of chances to score, leaving a lot of runners on through the course of the game, but our pitching has been pretty good."
In the fifth, the Panthers missed a scoring chance with Basgall threw a runner out at home on a squeeze bunt. In the sixth, Basgall worked around a bases loaded, one out jam when he coaxed a popup to catcher Jake Sedbrook and a force out. Center fielder Dan Bittel ended the seventh inning when he threw a runner out at home in a close play at the plate.
"That's one thing that Dan really works on is his arm strength," Kelly said. "He is one of a few guys that we got that spend a lot of time playing catch and playing long toss and strengthening their arm. It's those situations right there where it comes back and benefits."
Hays nearly won the game in the seventh. Bittel and Hayden Hutchison opened with singles and Chandler Rule received an intentional walk to load the bases. However, Hays couldn't score. With two outs, Kade Parker worked a 3-0 count, but Locke threw three straight strikes and coaxed a popup.
"It seemed like both teams didn't execute at certain times, and then we executed great at certain times," Kelly said. "It was kind of a love/hate relationship a little bit. One minute you are really pumped up and then the next minute, you are extremely frustrated. It was a roller coaster of emotions, that's for sure."
In the eighth, Paola put the No. 9 and No. 1 hitters -- Seth Slayman and Matt Petelin -- on first and second and elected to start the inning with its second batter, center fielder Andy Muhlberger.
"It made it a lot more fun than the typical situation," Murdock said.
He loaded the bases with an infield single. Then, Mitch Sloan delivered a perfect squeeze bunt down the first base line. He was out, but Slayman scored easily. Petelin headed for home, but Hays threw wild, allowing Petelin and Muhlberger to both score. A ground out and flyout ended the threat.
In the bottom of the eighth, Kelly decided to put Sedbrook and Cam Klaus, the No. 8 and 9 hitters, on the bases and start with Basgall. He singled and Bittel drew a bases loaded walk.
"If they wouldn't have scored any, we probably would have started with Dan or somebody that we wanted to place a bunt down," Kelly said. "But since we really weren't in a bunting situation to start the inning off, we just started with the top of our order where we try to get to anyway."
Hutchison hit a sharply hit grounder to Slayman at shortstop. It could have been a double play, but the ball went through Slayman's legs. Rule followed with a game-winning single.