Still coming to grips with the cancellation of the spring high school season, the return of summer baseball was the best medicine the senior-laden Hays Eagles 19-U squad could have asked for.
Highlighted by Carson Jacobs’ five-inning perfect game on the mound in the nightcap, the Eagles opened the summer with a doubleheader sweep of the Great Bend Chiefs on Friday at Hays High.
Hays took Game 1, 8-2, before Jacobs retired all 15 batters in a 10-0 run-rule win in Game 2.
“It’s just a great time, hanging out with the guys and listening to the fans on these type of nights,” Jacobs said.
“The feeling was great,” catcher Brock Lummus said. “We were all back on the field together as friends. It was just a blast.”
Summer baseball won’t take away the sting of missing out on a spring high school season, but Friday’s games were therapeutic in many ways for the Eagles.
The night largely belonged to the players who saw their senior season wiped out by the pandemic. Jacobs (TMP-Marian), Lummus (Hays High), Brady Kreutzer (TMP), Josh Haynes (Hays High) and Colby Dreiling (TMP) led the way.
“All of us were just itching to get back on the field, especially the seniors after our season was canceled,” Lummus said.
Jacobs, a 6-foot-7 right hander who is headed to Newman University, went right after the Chiefs’ hitters, finishing with seven strikeouts in his perfect outing.
“A lot of fastballs and a lot of early strikes, that’s what got me there,” Jacobs said. “Brock, behind the plate, knew what for me to throw. … He has a lot of baseball knowledge, and it’s great for me to have him back there.”
“He told me he was feeling good from the get-go,” Lummus said of Jacobs. “He didn’t really warm-up, he said he was good to go. I trusted him and he trusted me behind the plate calling the pitches. We had a good connection throughout the whole game.”
Forty of Jacobs’ 63 pitches were strikes.
“That was a special performance by a senior,” Eagles coach Tanner Willhoft said. “He got his (senior year) taken away from him. That TMP team could have been pretty good; Hays High, too. It just sucks. But I’m glad they get to come out here this summer.”
The Eagles got started early at the plate, putting up three runs in the bottom of the first of the opener. Kreutzer and Dreiling opened with singles before Lummus doubled down the third-base line to drive in Kreutzer. Dreiling scored on a groundout by Jacobs, and Haynes’ single brought in Lummus.
Hays led by a run heading into the bottom of the third before scoring two in the frame after a Great Bend error and an RBI single from Dominic Bainter. In the fourth, Lummus notched his second RBI double and Jacobs drove in two with a single to make it a six-run game.
Lummus went 3 for 4 at the plate while Kreutzer, Haynes and Bainter had two hits each. Jacobs drove in three runs.
Dreiling went the distance on the mound to earn the win. After giving up a pair of runs in the second inning, he tossed five straight scoreless innings. He gave up five hits and three walks while striking out 4 in a 91-pitch outing.
“That’s a bulldog on the mound,” Willhoft said of Dreiling. “He straight-up competes.”
The Eagles dominated in all facets in the second game. Hays pounded out 13 hits and all nine batters reached base at least once.
Remington Cox went 3 for 3 in the nightcap while Kreutzer, Jacobs and Jack Fields had two hits each.
“I thought they came out and played great,” Willhoft said of the Eagles’ performance in both games. “They were itching to play. It’s been a long time coming for them. Don’t know how I’d react to not playing in the spring like that. I’m proud of their performance. They came out and competed the whole time.”
While players like Jacobs, Kreutzer (Fort Hays State) and Lummus (Butler) will use the summer to tune up for college baseball next year, Willhoft the summer will also be important for the development of younger players like Fields, Dalton Dale and Garrett Wellbrock.
“This is where you get better as a player,” Willhoft said. “We got some good young kids coming up, too. Seniors dominated tonight, but we’re going to see some young talent on that field, too.”
The Eagles are playing independent of the American Legion this summer after the Legion canceled all involvement in 2020 summer baseball nationwide due to the pandemic. With no state tournament to aim for, Jacobs said the Eagles will focus on piling up as many wins as they can while savoring the chance to play together.
“This summer is going to be special no matter what,” Jacobs said. “We just want to come out here and play baseball.”
The Eagles will play a doubleheader at Buhler on Wednesday.