Hays High baseball headed to state

Rick Peterson Jr.
Hays Daily News
Garrett Wellbrock scores the game-winning run in a 5-4 victory over Andover in the regional semifinal at Hays High.
Dylan Dreiling reacts after watching the ball go over the right field fence for a home run in the first inning of Wednesday's regional final against Andover.
Hays High's Dalton Dale is lifted up in celebration by catcher Remington Cox following the final out of the Indians' 4-0 win over Valley Center in the regional final at Hays High.
The Hays High baseball team is headed to the Class 5A state tournament.

It's not uncommon for the best-laid plans to go by the wayside in regionals. 

Hays High baseball coach Dustin Dreher had to deviate slightly from the pitching plan in Wednesday's Class 5A regional at Indian Field, but the end result worked out just as the Indians envisioned. 

Hays ace Dylan Dreiling threw 22 pitches in the regional semifinal to help the Indians take a 5-4 walkoff win over Andover. He then started the regional final and delivered six shutout innings in a 4-0 win over Valley Center. 

"I had a plan. It's not exactly how the planned worked out," Dreher said. "Was hoping not to use Dylan the first game, but he came in and threw 22 pitches and then knew he had to be efficient in that second game. Hats off to him for doing what he needed to do to get six in that second game."

The Indians (17-3) are headed to state for the 13th time in program history. The Class 5A tournament begins Thursday at Wichita State's Eck Stadium. 

"Just so happy with the way the kids competed today," Dreher said. "Really excited for the boys. They're ecstatic to get to go (to state), and it's going to be a fun trip."

The Indians survived some tense moments in their regional opener against Andover. Protecting a 4-3 lead with runners at the corners and one out in the sixth, Dreher moved Dreiling to the mound. 

A sac fly allowed the tying run to score, but after a Hays appeal, the umpires ruled that the runner at first failed to tag up, ending the frame at 4-4. 

Dreiling said he was prepared to pitch in the first game if the Indians were in a tight spot. 

"We talked about it, if a guy gets to second (base), I was in," Dreiling said. "... To be honest with you, I'm surprised I threw three strikes in a row because I was fired up coming (to the mound), big time."

Dreiling kept the game tied with a perfect top of the seventh. The Indians then got the first three batters on base in the bottom of the frame to load the bases. 

With one out, Remington Cox grounded to the second baseman and the throw to the plate was off target as Garrett Wellbrock slid in safely. 

After expending 22 pitches against Andover, Dreiling said he focused on efficiency in the title game. 

"I came out just trying to get quick outs, try to put the ball in play a little bit more, and it worked out," he said. 

The junior left hander threw 83 pitches against Valley Center, reaching the pitch limit after completing the sixth inning. 

Dreiling has now gone 29 2/3 consecutive innings without surrendering a run. 

"He just attacked the zone," Dreher said. "Sometimes he goes out there and he hypes up and tries to overthrow a little bit. Today, he wasn't overthrowing, he was pitching. He was locating and he was changing speeds, and really got some easy outs on his changeups early in the counts, and that's what saves you."

Wellbrock gave up two runs on four hits and walked five in four innings in the start against Andover, but he worked out of jams and kept the Trojans from putting together a big inning. 

"The first few innings he had base runners all over but he battled and he kept us in that game," Dreher said. "We got just enough offensively to take care of it. Carson Spray came in and did a good job and Dylan came in and closed the door late."

Hays got on the board with a balk in the fourth inning of the regional final. The Indians added three runs of insurance in the fifth, thanks to a two-run single up the middle by Wellbrock and a bases-loaded walk by Dalyn Schwarz. 

"That was a huge hit by Garrett," Dreiling said. 

Dreiling gave up just two hits and didn't allow a walk while striking out 10 in the final.  Dalton Dale closed out the Hornets in the seventh. 

Dreher, who is in his first official season as Hays head coach after last season was cancelled by the pandemic, praised the Indians' approaches at the plate. 

"We compete all the way up and down the lineup, and I love it," Dreher said. 

Dreiling finished with three hits on the day, including a home run in his first at-bat in the Andover game. 

"I haven't been hitting my best, I'd say, this year. It kind of got me fired up, (the opportunity) to go to state."

Dreher also credited his senior catcher Remington Cox for showing toughness behind the plate. 

"He's just been battling all year," Dreher said. "... He's been hampered by some injuries but he keeps fighting. He's just a tough, hard-nosed kid. He does a great job behind the plate."