Heading into Monday’s doubleheader against Topeka-Washburn Rural, Hays High baseball coach Frank Leo wanted to see his team embrace the challenge of facing a strong Class 6A opponent.
The Indians had no difficulty rising to the occasion, sweeping the Junior Blues with 8-1 and 5-4 wins at Indian Field to move to 6-0 on the season.
“We knew we were going to be challenged today, and what’s good to see is we met the challenge,” Leo said. “That’s a good ballclub. It’s a 6A club that plays against good people. ... It’s big for us to get these two wins and be challenged and meet the challenge.”
Senior Trey Riggs turned in a dominant outing on the mound and the Indians belted three home runs in the first game. Hays then rallied from a 4-1 deficit in Game 2, taking control with a four-run fifth inning.
The big fifth inning featured a leadoff double from Justice Dotts, a two-run home run from Cody Petersen and three straight singles from Dominic Bainter, Palmer Hutchison and Riggs.
Riggs’ hit scored Bainter for the tying run, and after a walk by Brock Lummus, Hutchison scored on Dylan Dreiling’s RBI groundout to give the Indians the lead for good.
“I liked the way we competed,” Leo said. “We’re down 4-1 and didn’t give in, came back and took the lead and didn’t relinquish it. I liked the fight.”
In Game 1, Riggs allowed just four hits and one run while striking out four in the complete-game win.
“He just pounds the zone,” Leo said. “We got another doubleheader Friday (at Garden City) but we were going to ride him today. Trey has been really locked in and really focused.”
The Indians collected 13 hits in the first game including home runs from Hutchison, Dreiling and Riggs.
“We don’t want to think about power, but we preach hit a line drive and let things happen,” Leo said. “You put good swings on it, barrel it up, and those things happen. We don’t want to fall in love with being a home-run team, we just want to hit the ball hard. We practice that in batting practice and we want it to carry over into the game.”
Hutchison had three hits in the first game while Lummus, Dreiling and Josh Haynes each had two.
“We swung it well,” Leo said. “I thought our at-bats were outstanding because we took them deep in the count. Everything was a 2-2. We forced the guy to pitch a little bit. This early in the season, really good at-bats.”
Hutchison pitched the first four innings of the nightcap, allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits with one walk and five strikeouts. Bainter tossed the fifth inning and ended up earning the win while the freshman Dreiling closed it out with two scoreless inning.
Dreiling gave up a two-out single in the seventh before notching a strikeout to end the game.
“We had to keep Palmer at a pitch count,” Leo said. “We didn’t want him to get past 75 so we could have him available on Friday (at Garden City). Dom came in and I thought he had a good inning. A couple wild pitches and they got the base hit to get a run on the board, but I thought he pitched OK. And then Dylan came in and did what a guy's got to do when he’s smelling victory — just get after it.”
Washburn Rural coach Jay Mastin, a Hays High graduate, said he was impressed with the Indians’ pitchers.
“We saw some pretty good arms,” Mastin said. “With Riggs, Hutchison and Dreiling to close it out, I don’t know that we’ll see three better arms back in Topeka. I know there’s quality arms back east, but those guys are right there with them.”
Leo said the Indians played “outstanding defense,” which has been a trend for Hays High early on. Hutchison had the defensive highlight of the day at third base, making a diving play on a ground ball and throwing out a runner from his knees in the first game.
“He’s a tremendous defensive third baseman and he showed that,” Leo said.
Leo also credited Bainter for making a diving catch in center field for a big out in the seventh inning of the second game.
Rural, which played in the 6A state tournament last year, was playing its first two games of the season. Shawn Marquis and Payton Smith each had three hits on the day for the Junior Blues.
Despite his team’s losses, Mastin, who played for Leo with the Indians and the Hays Larks, said he enjoyed getting the chance to return to Hays.
"A lot of these guys I haven’t seen in 15, 20 years,” Mastin said. “Frank Leo’s done a heck of a job with this program and baseball around Hays wouldn’t be what it is without him.”