Dreher era begins with doubleheader sweep for Hays High
Dustin Dreher joked that it took him two years to earn his first victory as Hays High head baseball coach.
But in actuality, the Dreher era couldn't have started any better.
Dreher finally made his head coaching debut on Tuesday at HHS Field, guiding the Indians to a doubleheader sweep of Topeka Washburn Rural. Hays High rallied for a 5-3 win in the opener before taking a 7-3 victory in the nightcap to move to 2-0.
The longtime Hays High assistant took over the reins of the Indian baseball program last year, but his first season was wiped out by the pandemic.
"It was a blast to get back out there," Dreher said after the sweep of the Junior Blues. "It's a fun group to coach. You got all sorts of different attitudes, but every single one of them is going to compete."
Dreher served as a Hays High assistant coach for 17 years under Frank Leo before being named his successor following Leo's final season at HHS in 2019.
The Indians had high expectations for last year's team, which never got the chance to take the field.
"It hurt," Dreher said. "I've got a lot of years of baseball left, but it hurt for my seniors last year. ... I've kind of talked to our kids about that; you could lose this at any moment. You've got to enjoy it. If you're going to be out here, you might as well have fun. Enjoy it and play as hard as you can because you never know when something like last year can happen."
The Indians only got in a few practices under Dreher in 2020 before spring sports were canceled. It was back to square one as Hays High began preparation for this season.
"It was actually like starting from scratch with signs, with plays, with movements," Dreher said. "... Two years? Heck, I don't even remember what I did last week, let alone two years ago. It's been a lot of learning and trying to re-coach stuff. But the kids are locked in. ... It's been a fun bunch to coach and they're only going to get better."
Rural jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, and pitcher Cooper Carlgren held the Indians without a hit in the first three innings.
"I was wondering what I got myself into after the first three innings," Dreher quipped. "But we settled in."
With Hays down 3-0 in the bottom of the fourth, junior Garrett Wellbrock started his big day at the plate with a single. Remington Cox and Dalton Dale also followed with singles before Dalyn Schwarz grounded out to first to put the Indians on the board.
Dominic Bainter then knotted up the score with a two-run single to left.
"All we got to do is put the ball in play, and that's what we did," Wellbrock said. "Three singles and then all the sudden we were scoring runs and we got to that pitcher in that first game. He was throwing really well."
Wellbrock gave the Indians a 4-3 lead with an RBI single in the fifth and came around to score on a single from Cox.
"I think once we got through the lineup and everybody kind of got their feet wet, I thought we really settled down and had some really good ABs, and really started being more aggressive early," Dreher said.
Hays High junior Dylan Dreiling, a University of Tennessee commit, bounced back from a 32-pitch first inning to go six innings. He struck out 13, allowing two earned runs on three hits with three walks.
"He made an adjustment later on. I don't know if any one noticed, but the last, probably three innings, he was really losing velocity on purpose so he could use it when he needed it," Dreher said. "He was trying to get guys out on ground balls and fly balls, so he could go a little bit longer."
Dale closed out the Junior Blues in the seventh, looking impressive enough to convince Dreher to have him start the second game on the mound.
Dale went two innings in the second game, allowing one run, before turning it over to Wellbrock, who went four innings. Wellbrock gave up two runs on three hits with three strikeouts and no walks.
"Our plan was to actually go with Garrett Wellbrock (to start) Game 2, but Dale looked great to close it out, so we just kind of rolled with him," Dreher said. "He did a good job to get us through two innings, and then Wellbrock threw four on top that. Both of those guys will be able to come back on Friday with our conference opener against Garden City, so we're kind of locked and loaded."
Ben Krannawitter's RBI triple tied it up at 1 for Hays in the third. Dreiling followed with an RBI double to put Hays in front.
Wellbrock then smacked a two-run home run to left field to make it a 4-1 game.
"That's my first home run ever, actually," Wellbrock said. "It felt great."
Wellbrock finished the day 3 of 5 with three runs driven in. He was intentionally walked in the fifth.
"He's just a good line-drive hitter," Dreher said of Wellbrock. "He doesn't try to do too much. I preach line drives and today that's what it was. If you get a good pitch, it's going to turn into doubles and home runs.
"It was single, single, and then, man, he squared up that home run. He hit it really well. He just had a great day at the plate. I thought we had a lot of guys up and down the lineup that competed at the plate."
The Indians added three insurance runs in the fifth. Schwarz worked around two walks to toss a scoreless seventh inning.
Cox joined Wellbrock with a three-hit day for the Indians, who finished with eight hits in each game.
Washburn Rural, a Class 6A semifinalist in 2019, dropped to 2-3 on the season.
"They're a good team and we handled them pretty well today, so I think we have a lot of confidence right now," Wellbrock said.
"That's a really good ball club," he said of the Junior Blues. "Their coach (Jay Mastin) has been around the game forever. He's a former Hays High guy. He coaches them very well. That's a really good ball club.
"Those are two good wins."