A five-run deficit in the fifth inning of Sunday’s Wild West Fest tournament title game wasn’t all that intimidating for the Hays Senior Eagles.
After coming up with just two hits through the first four innings, the Eagles still felt they had enough at-bats left to rally after Liberal built a 6-1 lead in the top of the fifth.
"We just had a slow start," Eagles shortstop/pitcher Brady Kreutzer said. "We knew we’re a good hitting team. We like to wait until it gets to crunch time to start putting the bat on the ball."
Indeed, the Eagles made up all the ground in just one frame, scoring five in the sixth to tie it at 6.
Hays then took control with three runs in the sixth and closed out the Rattlers in the seventh to capture their third straight WWF tourney title with a 9-7 win at Larks Park.
"I knew with these guys, you see a pitcher two times and that’s all they really need to get going," Eagles coach Tanner Willhoft said. "I said, ’Hey, we have nine outs left.’ And we got it all back with three, so we’ll take that."
Dalton Dale came through with a two-out, two-run single to left field to tie the game at 6. The Eagles had three hits and three walks in the fifth to fuel the rally.
"We stopped helping them out," Willhoft said. "A couple times we were way ahead in the counts and we were swinging at a couple of balls. Later in the game, hit a couple strikes, put the ball in play, made them make mistakes."
Kreutzer earned the win in relief, helping keep the Rattlers in check in the last two innings. The TMP product and future Fort Hays State Tiger gave up a run in 2.2 innings of work.
"(Willhoft) told me at the beginning of the (summer) I’m going to be the guy that comes in when were in a bind, and that’s what I’ve done," Kreutzer said.
Eagles starter Carson Jacobs gave up six runs in 4.1 innings on the mound, but came through with a clutch hit during the Eagles’ rally. Jacobs delivered a bases-loaded single to score two and bring the Eagles within two.
"Credit to Carson. He didn’t have it today (on the mound) but we know what he can do," Kreutzer said of TMP teammate. "He threw a perfect game earlier this year. He was big enough to accept that it wasn’t his day, and he came up at the plate and helped us out in other ways."
After Kreutzer held Liberal scoreless in the top of the sixth, Garrett Wellbrock led off the bottom of the sixth with a walk and was moved to second on a sac bunt from Jack Fields. Kreutzer singled and Colby Dreiling walked to load the bases.
Wellbrock scored the go-ahead run on a passed ball and Kreutzer scored on a sac fly form Brock Lummus. Dreiling then came home on a passed ball to give the Eagles a three-run cushion.
Liberal got a run in the seventh but Dale threw out Javier Bojorquez trying to stretch a single into a double to end the game.
"Dalton Dale had a heckuva game," Willhoft said. "He threw the guy out at the end, had a big, two-RBI single."
Kreutzer went 3 for 4 at the plate while Dale had two hits.
The Eagles went 5-0 in the tournament to move to 17-2 on the summer.