By AUSTIN COLBERT
Coach Brad Kelly hasn't had much to be disappointed about in terms of the play of his Hays Eagles Legion baseball team so far this summer.
"Overall, I like where we are at," Kelly said. "There is not a whole lot to complain about. We have been playing pretty good, defensively. For the most part we have pitched it well enough to win every game that we have played. Offensively, we are always striding to be better and maybe a little more consistent."
The Eagles are 9-3 after splitting their final two games of the Bubba's Bash Tournament in Canon City, Colo. They defeated host Canon City 8-3 to advance to Sunday's championship game before falling 4-3 to North Platte.
All three losses for the Eagles have been by one run, the other two coming in Salina June 6 and 8.
Kade Parker, the 2014 Western Athletic Conference player of the year, took his first loss of the summer in Sunday's championship game in Colorado. Parker went the full 6.0 innings, allowing seven hits and four runs, all earned, to go with five strikeouts.
Hays led 2-0 after two innings, with the runs being scored by Marcus Altman and Layne Downing, both unearned after a throwing error. North Platte took the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning, three combined runs coming off four hits in the inning.
An RBI triple by Hays left fielder Zack Legleiter to score catcher Jake Sedbrook in the top of the fifth tied the game at 3. North Platte got the game-winning run in the bottom half of the fifth inning when a runner scored on a bases-loaded wild pitch.
Despite Sunday's struggles, Parker has more than lived up to his WAC player of the year status this summer. After the loss to North Platte, Parker (1-1) has a 2.00 earned run average in three starts. He is also third on the team in batting average, hitting .406 with five runs and a team-high 13 RBI.
"He is just the ultimate competitor," Kelly said of Parker. "He is a guy that in the dugout is real loose and likes to joke around, have fun. But as soon as the game starts and he steps across the line, he competes."
Parker and the Eagles will next head to Omaha, Neb., for the Battle of Omaha, which begins Thursday with pool play.
Hays will open with pool host Papillion at 9 a.m. and play Montevideo (Minn.) right after. The 10 pool winners and six wildcard teams will advance to the weekend's tournament play.
"The last two years we have won our pool and got into the bracket play ... we will see what happens. Hopefully we can get to Sunday again," Kelly said. "It's one of those things where you don't really know what your pool is going to be like. There are teams from Alaska -- all over the United States -- that you never really know the quality of team you are going to face when you are facing teams from really far away."
The Eagles had been set to play the Hays Monarchs senior Legion team on Monday at Larks Park, but the game was called off in order to allow players to rest. The Monarchs played a tournament in McCook, Neb., over the weekend and were limited by the number of available arms, while the Eagles did not get back from Colorado until late Sunday night/Monday morning. As of Monday evening the game had not yet been rescheduled.