Four-peat: Hays Eagles win another WWF Tourney
The Hays Eagles' pitching depth was put to the test in the Wild West Fest Tournament.
But with six games in three days, efficiency on the mound kept the Eagles from running out of arms, helping the Senior American Legion squad capture its fourth straight WWF Tournament championship.
The Eagles downed Iola twice on Saturday at Larks Park to win the title. They earned a hard-fought 8-5 win in the semifinal before pulling away for a 12-4 victory in the final, finishing the tournament with a 6-0 mark.
"We didn't think we'd have enough pitching for this tournament, actually," Eagles infielder/pitcher Dalton Dale said. "We somehow got through the championship game with one pitcher left, and it worked out."
"We pitched well, that was the key to it," Eagles coach Tanner Willhoft said. "I can't say a bad word about any of our pitchers. I think I have five, six pitchers that can get the job done no matter what."
Garrett Wellbrock tossed a complete game in the semifinal and Carson Spray went four innings in the second game before turning it over to Brady Kreutzer, who tossed the final three frames.
Wellbrock won two games on the mound in the tournament while Spray, Dale, Kreutzer and Blake Schmidt all won a game apiece.
"We're not getting a lot of strikeouts, we're getting a lot of groundouts and fly balls," Dale said. "We have a lot of guys that throw strikes."
In the final, the Eagles jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first. Wellbrock drove in the first run with a groundout and Dalton Dale and Remington Cox each had RBI singles. The Eagles tacked on another run in the second when Ben Krannawitter scored off an error.
Iola rallied for three runs in the bottom of the third.
With the Eagles leading 5-3, Iola put their first two batters on base in the fifth. Kreutzer then came in relief and got a groundball double play on his first pitch.
"That was a huge spot," Willhoft said. "[Kreutzer's] a big leader on this team."
Wellbrock's sacrifice fly and Dale's RBI single pushed the lead to 7-3 in the sixth, and the Eagles broke it open with five in the seventh.
Spray allowed three runs on four hits in four-plus innings, striking out four and walking four.
Kreutzer, a TMP-Marian product who is entering his redshirt freshman season at Fort Hays State, gave up one unearned run in three innings of relief. He struck out three and walked two without surrendering a hit.
The Eagles finished with 14 hits in the title game. Dale collected three hits while Krannawitter, Kreutzer and Jack Fields each had two. Wellbrock tripled while Fields, Krannawitter and Kreutzer each doubled.
"Our offense turned it up the last two games," Kreutzer said. "Our pitchers did a good job of getting ahead and getting ground balls. Our defense looked a little shaky these last couple of days but we overcame it with our bats."
In the semifinal, Iola took a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the third off an Eagles' error. The Eagles regained the lead for a good on a two-run double by Kreutzer in the fifth. Bradyn Dreher drove in a run on a sac fly in the sixth and Hays added another insurance run on Dale's RBI single in the seventh.
Ryker Curry led off the bottom of the seventh with a triple for Iola but was thrown out at the plate by Fields after Curry tagged up from third on a flyout to left.
The Eagles moved to 15-4 on the summer.
"We're going to try to win as many games as we can," Willhoft said. "We've got zone and state coming up. Our first goal is to win zone and see what we can do at state, see if we can make a run. We've got enough pitching to do it."