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Monarchs headed to Pratt

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

Last year, the Hays Monarchs ended their season with a loss to Iola in the Class AA American Legion state tournament final.

Iola -- a team that took second at state in Class 4A in May -- will be the Monarch's first opponent at this year's tournament, which gets underway Wednesday in Pratt.

"If we can win that game things will really look up for us for the rest of the tournament as far as being in the driver's seat," Monarch coach Dustin Schumacher said.

The Monarchs, which are made predominantly of Thomas More Prep-Marian players, are heading to state for only the second time. It is the third year the team has been an official member of the American Legion, having missed state in their first season of eligibility in 2011.

"We have a lot of different kids -- we only have two starters back from last year's team -- so it's going to be a different feel for us this year at state," Schumacher said. "But I think we can compete with anybody that is down there."

The Monarchs are 18-13 this season, and enter the state tournament having won four games in a row.

They have seen a significant improvement in their offense over the final weeks, led by the recent success of Cameron Brin and Ryan Schippers.

"If we need someone to step up and maybe draw a walk or get a hit or get on base, they are doing it," Schumacher said. "We hit the ball well our last game, so if we continue to hit like that, then we can definitely win some ball games."

But if the Monarchs hope to find success at state once again, they are going to need to stick to doing what they do best -- play good, fundamental defense.

"In order for us to win, that's how we have to play," Schumacher said. "We don't have the sticks to hit it out of the park, so we have to limit the other team's offensive production and when we have opportunities we have to make the most of them."

Shortstop Shane Zimmerman has led the defensive effort, which combined with the recent offensive prowess, has helped the Monarchs outscore their final four opponents by a combined 35-7.

"If we play like that and we lose then there is nothing we can really do about it," Zimmerman said.

"But if we play like that we should be doing all right and winning some games."

Schumacher plans to start Pierce Schippers (4-4), who enters the state tournament with a 2.23 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 38 innings pitched, agianst Iola.

"Last year they (Iola) were a very good team and I'm sure they are very good this year," Zimmerman said. "I just want to see how we do against great competition."