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Monarchs, Russell in Larned Zone

7/20/2014

By NICK McQUEEN

By NICK McQUEEN

nmcqueen@dailynews.net

If things go according to expectations, last week's game between the Hays Monarchs Senior Legion baseball team and Russell -- won 12-11 by Hays -- could have been a small preview of things to come in this week's American Legion Class AA Zone Tournament in Larned.

Both teams will have to win a game first though in order to meet up for the first time in the double-elimination format.

Hays, which hopes to make it back to state again this season with a Zone win, will play at 5 p.m. today against either Larned or Pratt. Russell plays its first game against Hoisington in the 2:30 p.m. slot.

"We're confident going in," said Monarchs coach Dustin Schumacher, whose team is 17-5 following the win against Russell on Monday. "We're familiar with everyone there for the most part, with the exception of Pratt."

If the Monarchs lose their first game today, they fall into the 5:30 p.m. elimination game Monday. If they win, they will face either Russell or Hoisington at 8 p.m. Monday.

"These are all teams we've had some success against. We know we're going to have to be on top of our game to have a chance to win, but we feel confident we can do that," Schumacher said.

Hays enters the tournament on a three-game winning streak, following two losses in the Wild West Festival Tournament in Hays. The Monarchs have scored at least seven runs in the three wins, boosted by the play of its top two hitters who have played in all 22 contests. Jordan Gottschalk is batting .479 with a team-best 21 RBIs, while Ryan Schippers is batting .377 and is tied for second on the team with 18 RBIs. Gottschalk carries a .537 on-base percentage and a .592 slugging percentage with a team-best eight doubles.

"You can just tell when guys get it," Schumacher said. "For (Gottschalk), at the plate, that happened this summer. It did come on for him.

"He gets what he's supposed to do, and what pitches he's supposed to swing at,"  Schumacher added. "He's really hit the ball well this summer."

Grant Romme, who leads the team with 24 runs, is batting .317, and is the only other Monarch to have played in every contest. He has drawn 21 walks and has a .506 on-base percentage.

In addition, Ryan Ruder and Kameron Schmidt have had strong summers, in less action. Ruder has played in 16 games, and is batting .500, while Kameron Schmidt has played in 13 games, and is batting .417.

If the Monarchs match up against Larned today, Schumacher said Ricky Hockett (4-0, 1.17 earned-run average) likely would get the start. Hockett is third on the team in strikeouts (21) to just 10 walks. He has given up just eight runs in 30 innings (seven appearances). If Hays plays Pratt, Schumacher said he might re-think his starter. Hays has three pitchers with at least four wins, including Liam Stults (6-1) and Kameron Schmidt (5-0).

"He's been a pretty consistent force," Schumacher said of Hockett. "He throws strikes, and doesn't allow very many base-runners. So we feel pretty confident with him on the mound."

Russell enters the tournament with a 14-7 mark after picking up a pair of wins in their season-ending triangular Tuesday. Russell defeated Ellis, 8-7, then blitzed Beloit, 15-0.