Eagles sweep Salina Falcons
By NICK McQUEEN
In back-to-back state championship seasons the past two summers, the Hays Senior Legion Eagles baseball team has built itself on the idea of just finding a way to get things done.
This year’s club, the third under head coach Brad Kelly, is no exception.
Through what now is a 28-8 campaign, the Eagles have simply found a way — producing timely hits, moving runners and just making the plays needed to put wins on the board.
Tuesday night’s sweep of the Salina Pestinger Falcons was all that and then some for Hays, adding to its arsenal two rare home runs. Hays won 11-8 in the opener, then 9-1 in five innings in the nightcap.
Kade Parker had the honors in Game 1. He hit just the Eagles’ third home run of the season, a two-run shot in the first inning that gave the Eagles a 3-0 lead. Then in the nightcap, Layne Downing powered a seven-run second inning with a two-run shot.
“That doubled our home run total,” said Kelly, who during the weekend notched his 100th win in three seasons in the Blue Springs, Mo., Tournament. “Power is not really our game. It’s basically finding a way to first base. Once we get a lead, though, it seems like we can relax a little bit and start swinging, and guys have been successful with that.”
In Tuesday’s first game, Salina (22-13) erased a 4-1 deficit with three runs in the fourth inning on two Eagle errors, but Hays went back to work again with six runs to all but put the game away in the sixth. Connor Rule and Zack Legleiter each recorded RBIs, then Jared Haynes cleared the bases with a triple, then scored himself on the same play with an error by the Falcons’ third baseman.
“These guys are pretty loose,” Kelly said. “We tried not to put any added pressure on them, and just make routine plays. We’re not asking guys to hit doubles and triples — just try to find a way to get them 90 feet.”
Brady Bieker did waiver a little bit in relief in the opener. Facing the first three batters in the seventh with a comfortable lead, Bieker hit a batter, the Eagles had an error, and Bieker walked a batter. That soon turned into four Falcon runs.
“I don’t know what’s more difficult — coming in with a two-run lead, or when you have a huge lead like that,” Kelly said. “Hitting the first guy maybe got in his head a little bit, but he buckled down and got the job done.
“We have a lot of faith in him. He does a good job throwing strikes for us.”
Marcus Altman pitched six innings for the win to move to 4-1. He gave up four runs (one earned) on eight hits with five strikeouts and two walks.
In the nightcap, Downing — the Eagles’ ace — couldn’t really be touched. In five innings, he gave up just two hits, struck out four and walked three in front of a flawless Eagles’ defense. Downing moved to 8-0.
His two-run homer in the second was enough momentum to help the Eagles sail to the win. Parker had a pair of RBIs. Parker and Downing each had two hits in the nightcap.
The Eagles were coming off a 3-2 showing in Blue Springs, a wood-bat tournament in which Hays traditionally has struggled.
“To win the last two games was big after sitting 1-2,” Kelly said. “It seems like we always play well coming out of that tournament. But for whatever reason we struggle there.
“But it really does us well to prepare for the postseason.”
Hays has one more warm-up, hosting Great Bend in a 6 p.m. doubleheader Thursday. Then, the Eagles will travel to Dodge City next week for the AAA Zone 7 Tournament. The winner advances to the AAA state tourney in Pittsburgh.
Hays 11, Salina 8
Salina (22-12) 001 300 4 — 8 9 1
Hays (27-8) 301 016 x — 11 10 4
Walters and Floyd; Altman, Bieker (7) and Sedbrook. W — Atlman (4-1). L — Walters. 2B — Rowe, Salina; 3B — Haynes, Hays. HR — Parker, Hays.
Hays 9, Salina 1
Salina (22-13) 100 00 — 1 2 0
Hays (28-8) 070 02 — 9 7 0
Mermis and England; Downing and Sedbrook. W — Downing (8-0). L — Mermis. 2B — Boyer, Salina; Parker, Hays. HR — Downing, Hays.