Hays High School baseball coach Frank Leo accepts the fact he has a young club on the field this spring. With virtually everyone new to the varsity level, there’s a lot of learning being done on the fly.
Several times the Indians have had to rise to the occasion and answer the call — and got it done.
Facing a hot-handed Great Bend team, Thursday night in the Western Plains Diamond Classic was not one of those times.
The Indians put the bat on the ball, but didn’t get the pitching it needed in a 12-8 loss to cap the first day of the annual tournament at Indian Field.
“It comes down to pitching. You got to pitch it,” Leo said following his team’s fifth loss. “(Tyrone Wynn) had been pitching well, and I thought that was a good matchup for us today.
“It didn’t turn out that way. When we answered, he couldn’t gain the momentum back.”
Wynn started Thursday’s game hot, getting Great Bend into back-to-back outs. But, then he walked a pair, and then gave up a single that allowed the visitors to gain a 1-0 lead.
“Mechanically wasn’t getting ahead of hitters,” Leo said of Wynn, who fell to 1-1. “He had no breaking pitch working.”
Hays High’s offense answered in the first, putting up three runs — two coming on a single by Trey Riggs. The Indians loaded the bases with nobody gone, forcing Great Bend — which the Indians already had swept in WAC play this season — to replace starter Payton Mauler with Eduardo Bujanda, a freshman.
The Indians went to the second with a 3-1 lead, but again had to play catch up as the Panthers posted four runs in the second against Wynn. Two runs came on a double by Brice Kaiser.
The Indians (7-5) still had an answer, tying things back up when Palmer Hutchison laced a two-out single to score Cody Petersen and Jace Armstrong.
“The offense did OK. We’re not a great offensive club, but I thought we did OK today,” Leo said. “Our pitching has been good, so that was the surprise.”
With the game tied at 5 through three, things went south for Wynn in the fourth inning. Wynn walked one then got a strikeout in the inning, but Great Bend recorded four straight singles, leading the Indians to bring in Willie Sennett. Great Bend ended up with six runs in the inning, then never lost control.
“Willie Sennett did a decent job coming in behind him,” Leo said. “Got in some trouble, but minimized the situations. But our starting pitching just didn’t get it done.”
Trailing 11-5, Hays High threatened the lead with a pair of runs in the fourth, but Bujanda got back-to-back ground-outs to end the comeback attempt.
The Panthers ended the game with 11 hits. Wynn lasted 3.1 innings, giving up 10 runs (all earned) on eight hits with four strikeouts and four walks.
The good news for the Indians was Sennett was able to finish the game, despite loading the bases in the seventh. With the pitch count in effect, Hays High needs as many pitchers available as possible in an already thin staff with two more games remaining in the tournament.
Earlier in the day, Grant Coffman pitched just four innings as Hays High started the tourney with a 12-0 five-inning win against Life Prep Academy.
Hays High jumped out early with a 6-0 lead after one inning, then later put up a four-spot in the fourth to put the game over the 10-run mercy rule.
Trey VanPelt and Sennet each drove in a pair of runs, as did Wynn
Life Prep also fell 20-3 to Salina Central, Hays High’s Friday night opponent in the tournament — a scheduled 7:15 start.
“They’ve got a good club, having one of their better years,” Leo said of Central (11-4 and on a seven-game win streak). “Can’t let them score very many runs. It’s a challenge. Hopefully we can stay in it and make it a good game.”