The Thomas More Prep-Marian baseball team settled for a split for the fourth time in six doubleheaders this spring when it rebounded from a 5-3 loss to Great Bend in Thursday’s opener before taking the second game 7-5 at Larks Park.
It looked as if the Monarchs (8-4) might get swept in the late stages of the second game.
TMP took a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first on run-scoring hits from Jared Vitztum, Chase Romme, Justin Pfeifer and Chase Werth. Romme’s hit, a double over the center fielder’s head, was put on a platter for the senior catcher.
“I was feeling a fastball coming, and it was right down the middle,” Romme said. “That’s everyone’s favorite pitch, right down the middle. Just squared it up, and it felt good off the bat.”
The hosts fell behind 5-4 in the top of the fifth on an RBI single by Brayden Smith. After a big opening frame, the Monarchs’ approach at the plate dropped off in the middle innings, according to Dustin Schumacher, who filled in for head coach Brian Schumacher on the day.
“It was good up until about the third inning of the second game,” Schumacher said of TMP’s plate approach. “Then we had a lull in there. We just kinda gave up the momentum without them doing anything.”
The Monarchs tied the game at five in the bottom half when senior Jared Vitztum scored Ricky Hockett with an RBI single to center. Chase Romme and Justin Pfeifer each reached later in the inning, but the Monarchs were unable to push across the go-ahead run until the next inning.
After Ryan Ruder pitched a scoreless top of the sixth, sophomore Gavin Schumacher split the third baseman’s legs with a hard-hit ball. Schumacher, however, got caught between bases on an attempted sacrifice bunt from Tate Garcia. Ruder followed with a fielder’s choice for the second out.
Hockett stepped into the box and quickly put the Monarchs ahead with a two-run blast to left-center. Despite the pressure situation, the senior’s approach stayed consistent.
“It was the same approach as every other at-bat, jump on a fastball early in the count,” Hockett said.
While it wasn’t his first homer on the season, it’s one that stands apart from the others.
“Definitely, that’s the best one I’ve ever hit,” Hockett said.
Ruder retired the Panthers in order in the seventh for a complete-game victory. Ruder finished the day with five strikeouts and .86 WHIP. Vitztum and Hockett each plated a pair of runs in the victory.
Neither Ruder or Hockett, who pitched the first game, had their best stuff on the day, but it was enough for a win in Game 2.
“I thought they really battled,” Schumacher said. “Neither of them had their best stuff by any means, but they’re veterans. They know how to go out and get it done even if they don’t have their best stuff.”
Great Bend got to Hockett in the top half of the fourth of Game 1 when Bryce Lytle opened the scoring with an RBI single.
The Panthers added a second run on a groundout later in the inning.
Anson Hall and Brayden Smith linked RBI singles to make it 4-0 in the fifth before another scored on a throwing error. Hockett felt good prior to first pitch but didn’t feel it transition to the game.
“I don’t feel like I pitched very well,” Hockett said. “I felt good in the bullpen before the game, but once I got on the mound, it didn’t feel like I had any zip on my fastball or anything.”
Schumacher, a sophomore, put the Monarchs on the board in the bottom half, lining a ball that got past the Panther right fielder. Schumacher advanced to third on the play and later scored on a grounder off Tate Garcia’s bat.
Hockett kept the visitors off the board in the sixth and seventh, to keep the TMP deficit at three to start the bottom half.
Schumacher scored his second run of the game on a wild pitch, but that was the extent of the Monarch offense in the opener.
“We played pretty solid,” Hockett said. “Just little mistakes here and there kinda cost us that first game.”
Schumacher echoed Hockett’s belief that the Monarchs weren’t far off from playing a pair of quality games. The coach felt like the Monarchs have improved defensively and just need to take care of the game’s intricacies.
“We had a couple errors, but for two games, we’ll take that any day of the week,” Schumacher said. “We’ve gotten that problem fixed. We’re playing good defense now.”
Hockett struck out three in seven innings of work in the opener.
The Monarchs return to action and will look for their third sweep of the season on Tuesday at Russell.
Great Bend 5, Thomas More Prep-Marian 3
GB 000 230 0 — 5 8 0
TMP 000 020 1 — 3 6 2
Hockett and Romme; Basye, Perry and Maneth. W: Basye. L: Hockett.
Thomas More Prep-Marian 7, Great Bend 5
GB 003 020 0 — 5 5 2
TMP 400 012 x — 7 11 3
Ruder and Romme; Hall, Smith, Ireland and Maneth. W: Ruder. L: Smith. 2B: Ruder, Romme, Pfeifer; Maneth. 3B: Hillman. HR: Hockett.