Ellis baseball holds off Maranatha, moves to 2-1A semis
Undefeated on the season, the Ellis High School baseball team was in unfamiliar territory in Thursday’s first-round game of the Class 2-1A state tournament. The Railroaders gave up the lead and had just nine outs left to avoid elimination against Shawnee-Maranatha Christian Academy.
The Railroaders, who surrendered the tying and go-ahead run in the top of the fifth, rallied for four runs in the home half of the inning to regain the lead. Ellis barely held on to its three-run advantage, winning 5-4 at the Great Bend Sports Complex.
“We haven’t been behind too often,” Ellis coach Brent Cain said. “It was a huge response by our guys.”
Top seed Ellis (20-0) and No. 4 seed Valley Falls (20-2) will play in the second semifinal on Friday afternoon. Valley Falls outlasted Pittsburg-St. Mary’s Colgan 3-2 in 15 innings in Thursday’s late game. They will play following the 11 a.m. matchup between No. 2 Sedgwick (23-1) and No. 6 Spearville (13-9). Sedgwick edged Belle Plaine 3-2 and Spearville knocked off Colony-Crest 4-2 on Thursday. Friday’s third-place game is set for 3:30 p.m. and the championship at 5:45 p.m.
Railer senior right-hander Tegan Cain, the coach’s son, was protecting a 1-0 lead going into the top of the fifth before the Eagles scored twice. Ellis responded in the home half. Senior Zach Schiel led off with a single and the No. 9 hitter, junior Sam Honas, tried to bunt him over but also reached on a bunt single. Schiel eventually scored on a wild pitch to tie the game. Ellis’ leadoff man, junior Tyson Jimenez, walked and Cain also walked one out later to load the bases for junior Easton Burton. He singled home two runs to regain the lead for the Railers, and sophomore Jarrett Mader followed with an RBI single to make it 5-2.
“We had our 8-9 guys leading off that inning and they both got on with singles,” Cain said. “It was great to see the bottom of the order come through like that for us.
“(Burton is) probably one of our best situational hitters,” Cain added. “Absolutely have confidence in him in any situation.”
Tegan Cain (9-0) had to leave after six innings due to the pitch count rule. He allowed two runs on three hits with 10 strikeouts.
“He ended up settling in; a little bit of a rocky start,” Coach Cain said. “He found his groove, started to get through the lineup.
“They were definitely a good ballcub,” he added. “They had a good approach at the plate, were disciplined hitters.”
Coach Cain hoped to have Jimenez come in to pitch an easy seventh, but Maranatha (10-9) got a two-out, two-run single from junior Isaiah Beck to make it a one-run game. Cain had to remove Jimenez after he got to an 0-2 count on the next batter so he would be eligible to pitch on Friday. Burton came in to pitch to freshman Graden Oswald, and got him swinging on his third pitch for the save.
“We had confidence in Burton, that he would be able to come in and get that final strike,” Cain said. “If Tyson would have thrown one more pitch he wouldn’t have been able to go (Friday),” Cain said.
Jiminez (3-0) will be the probable starter against Valley Falls.
“I think that’s the plan, roll him out there, see how things go,” Cain said.
Beck, who pitched five innings for the Eagles, gave up a run in the first when Jimenez singled, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch on the play, then scored on another wild pitch. But Beck held the Railers in check from there until the fifth.
“He was really good,” Cain said. “He was probably the hardest thrower we’ve seen all year.”
Now, Ellis hopes to end its year as state champs, which would be a first for the program. But the Railers first had to get past their opener.
“It’s a new group of kids,” Cain said. “Our number one goal was to win (Thursday).”