BY JIM MISUNAS
Thursday's opening home act for the Great Bend Bat Cats featured drama befitting a Broadway debut.
What started as a Bat Cats flop, ended with a celebration amid a standing ovation.
The Hutchinson Monarchs played the perfect role as the road villain with three homers and a 4-run lead.
"We're down, but we're not out of the game," said Bat Cats coach Jonathan Mariani. "Solo homers usually don't beat you."
Great Bend exhibited grit and guts, clawing back from a 4-0 deficit with four runs in its final two at-bats while stranding multiple Monarch baserunners. The Bat Cats converted a pair of late-inning Hogan Shelby errors into four runs.
Down 7-4, Great Bend's Nolan Bushko doubled home Jackson Webster after he reached on an error. Connor Chavez singled home Bushko in a 2-run eighth-inning.
Armani Raygoza made the Monarchs pay for Shelby's ninth-inning leadoff error with the game-winning bloop double that scored Robby Bolin and Matthew Mendez for a shocking 8-7 walkoff victory at Al Burns Memorial Field.
"I was 100% sure Armani would put the baseball in play," Mariani said. "These guys are good baseball players who play with confidence. Our lineup is too good to be shut down for nine innings. The guys found a way to win a ballgame."
Great Bend's Paco Hernandez (1-0) pitched two innings to earn the victory.
The Bat Cats (4-1, 4-0 Sunflower) share first place with the Derby Twins (4-0) in the Sunflower Collegiate Baseball League. Great Bend's victory spoiled the summer coaching debut for Monarch coach Casey Lippoldt.
Hutchinson roared to a 4-0 lead. Max Buetterman and Jarett Flaggert drilled leadoff homers and Cooper Harris and Blake Bradford delivered RBIs. Jase Woita and Bolin evened the score 4-4 with 2-run hits, after two walks and a hit batter.
Monarch Harris drilled a homer and Flaggert added an RBI single for a 6-4 lead. Reliever Hunter Jones retired Harris to strand three baserunners in the seventh inning, the biggest out of the night.
"Getting that out for Jones was huge," Mariani said. "He hadn't pitched in a while. He had to knock some rust off. But he's got guys out all spring."
Hutchinson's Jaden Gustafson scored on an eighth-inning balk for a 7-4 lead.
Monarchs 010 301 110 — 7 10 3
Bat Cats 000 400 022 — 8 9 1
Tinnerman, Cornelius (4), Wisner (5), Beverman (9) and Harris. Howell, Jones (7), Hernandez (8) and Hale. W—Hernandez, 1-0. L—Beverman, 0-1. 2B—GB—Mendez, Raygoza; H—Buetterbeck, Harris. HR—H—Buettenbeck, Flaggert, Harris.
Great Bend Bat Cats 4-0
Kansas Cannons 4-1
Derby Twins 4-2
Haysville Aviators 2-3
Hutchinson Monarchs 0-1
Newton Rebels 0-2
Kingman Islanders 0-5
6-14—Twins at Monarchs; Islanders at Cannons; Bat Cats at Rebels
6-13—Rebels at Bat Cats; Monarchs at Twins; Cannons at Islanders
6-12—Islanders at Cannons; Twins at Monarchs; Rebels at Bat Cats
6-11—Bat Cats at Monarchs, 2; Cannons at Rebels
6-10—Aviators 14, Islanders 6; Cannons 6, Twins 4; Rebels 8, Curve 3
6-9—Cannons 14, Twins 7
6-8—Bat Cats 8, Monarchs 7; Twins 6, Cannons 2; Aviators 7, Islanders 6
6-7—Bat Cats 11, Aviators 4; Cannons 5, Rebels 2; Twins 12-7, Islanders 8-1
6-6—Bat Cats 4-13, Aviators 1-2; Twins 7, Islanders 3; Cannons 3, Rebels 2;
6-3—Islanders 10, Bat Cats 9; Cannons 6, Aviators 3