The offenses woke up early Saturday morning in Great Bend. The Panthers and Junction City combined for 13 runs in the first two innings of game one. Great Bend settled down to win 13-8. Blue Jay senior Tyler LeClear had the answer in game two, allowing just one hit and shutting out the Panthers for a 7-0 win.
Great Bend 13, Junction City 8
Both teams had reasons for the sluggish start. For the visiting Blue Jays (8-4), the game meant leaving Junction City at seven in the morning. For the Panthers (5-3), Matt Marshall struggled through two innings in his first outing this season.
“This was his first outing of the year, so it usually takes a little time to get comfortable,” said Great Bend Coach Randy Beck. “I thought he did that. He struggled with his off-speed stuff the first couple of innings. He started getting that in for a strike, which made his fastball better. That’s why he was able to get things done.”
Junction City picked up three runs in the first inning. Junior James Denton drove in two of those runs with a single, driving in Cody Devin and Nick Heath, who reached on a double. With two outs, Panther catcher Eric Ruiz ended the threat with a throw-out at third base.
Great Bend answered, loading the bases with no outs in their half of the first. Dakota Conaway’s infield
single scored Connor Sell. Braden Jones singled in two runs. Ruiz added another two-run single for a 5-3 lead.
“I thought we needed to wake up a little bit,” Junction City Coach Heath Gerstner said. “We were a little slow this morning. We’re not used to playing on Saturdays. I didn’t think we pitched necessarily that bad. We threw strikes. It’s just a little different surface and the guys were a little tighter.”
The Blue Jays added two more runs in the second inning, highlighted by junior Sam Hollibaugh’s solo home run. Devin also scored on a wild pitch to even the score at five. Ruiz again had the final say, throwing down to third base for the final out of the inning.
“Those are huge plays,” said Gerstner. “Having a runner get out at third base with two outs is unacceptable. That’s something we’ve never had happen to us. It’s just a mental breakdown. We pride ourselves on being mentally tough, and those were bad plays.”
The Panthers again loaded the bases with no outs against Junction City Will Ervin. Bryce Beck scored on an error, and Mitch Kottas and Jones each drove in runs for an 8-5 lead after two innings.
“We’ve been behind a lot this year and made the comebacks,” said Beck. “When we get down, we don’t lose a lot of confidence because we know we’ve made the charge several times. We swung it well and had a good approach at the plate, and that’s what it takes.”
From there, Marshall took over on the mound, keeping the Jays scoreless over the next two innings, and allowing just two more runs in the fifth inning. He struck out two in five innings for the win in his first try on the mound.
Jace Bowman threw 1.2 innings for the Panthers, allowing just one hit but loading the bases in the seventh inning. Kottas pitched for the final out, getting behind 3-0 before striking out James Denton to end the game.
Great Bend took advantage of two errors to plate four runs in the fourth inning. Ruiz belted a three-run home run off of Tyler Cox over the right field fence to push the gap to 12-5.
Ervin picked up the loss for the Jays, allowing eight earned runs on eight hits in three-plus innings of work. Cox allowed five hits and just one run in his three innings of relief work.
Eric Ruiz led both offenses with three hits, including the home run. He drove in six runs and scored another. Sell and Conaway both had two hits for the Panthers, and Sell added a walk.
Devin paced Junction City with three hits and was hit by a pitch. Tyler LeClear added two hits, including a double.
Junction City 7, Great Bend 0
Junction City’s LeClear had the answer for the Panther bats in game two. The senior allowed just one hit in a seven-inning complete game win. That one hit came in the first inning on a weak infield single. LeClear struck out three and walked four batters.
Behind him, the Blue Jays scored in each of the first three innings to take a 5-0 lead. Pete Ruiz drove in Devin for the first run of the game, then came around to score on a single from Denton.
LeClear led off the second inning with a walk, then Nate Jeffrey, running for the pitcher, scored on an error. In the third inning, Denton and Will Ervin each added RBI singles for a 5-0 lead.
As LeClear continued to cruise on the mound, Johnathan Feaster was hit by a pitch in a pinch-hit appearance in the sixth inning. He scored on a two-out double from Heath. LeClear completed his big game in the seventh inning, driving in Ruiz for the final run of the game.
Jones pitched all seven innings for the Panthers, allowing six earned runs on eight hits and striking out one.
Heath led the Blue Jay bats with three hits, including two doubles, in game two. Denton singled in runs in two at bats, and was hit by a pitch in another. Ruiz added two hits and reached base twice more on errors. He scored three runs in the win.
Bowman had the only hit for Great Bend. He also reached base in the sixth inning before getting involved in a double-play on an infield pop-up.