Eagles stymied by Pratt's Forshee in 3-2 regional championship loss
By KEVIN THOMPSON
HUGOTON — It's a story still waiting to be written.
The Hugoton Eagles have never been to the state baseball tournament, and Wednesday's 3-2 regional title game loss to Pratt made the book just a little longer.
Hugoton battled back late from a 3-0 deficit, but left the tying run at second, as the top-seed in the tournament fell to the third-seeded Greenbacks.
Brett Forshee stymied the Eagles hitters into the fifth inning before giving way to Skyler Dean.
Pratt scored three runs against ace Yates Sutton, who struck out six but also walked four.
For Hugoton coach Rusty Crites, it was a tough loss to take.
"Sutton pitched a great game. He kept us right where we wanted to be," Crites said. "We thought we had them on the fence a couple a times, but just couldn't get that big key hit."
Hugoton (21-2) had scoring chances early.
In the first, Sutton reached on an error and moved to second on a force out. Nic Frederick hit a clean single over second, but Sutton was caught in a run down after stumbling on third base.
In the second, Ross Davis reached on an error and Maverick Mills singled to put runners at the corners, but Jeison Rodriguez grounded into an inning-ending double play to stop the threat.
After two fitful innings, Hugoton got things going in the fifth. Mills hit a leadoff double to deep left, advanced to third on a fielder's choice, prompting a pitching change. Michael Baeza's grounder scored Mills for the Eagles' first run.
In the seventh, Alfredo Licon drew a lead-off walk. Rodriguez hit a towering drive to right, which hit off the glove, putting runners at the corner. Baeza's sacrifice fly scored Licon.
But Sutton popped out to first for the final out.
Forshee threw for strikes and hit his spots, Crites said, and that threw his team off balance. The junior, who only had one strikeout, had no walks or wild pitches, and that kept the Eagles in check.
"He was almost unhittable to us for almost five innings," he added.
Alfredo Licon, the lone Eagle senior starter, said the loss was hard to take, but his team had a good year. They just ran into a tough pitcher in this game.
"We struggled hitting and they hit. He was just hitting his spots and the defense was playing really well. They just the ball better than us," he said.
Licon, who has signed to play football at Garden City Community College, was proud of his team's effort.
"We went down hard," he said. "They just played better than us today."
Pratt (14-5) is headed back to state for the second time in three seasons. Their seven seniors went to state as sophomores, and coach Pat Stivers said this close win was typical of the season.
"We've played close games all year. The unfortunate thing is we've been hurt all year and until we got about three-fourths of the way through, we finally got everyone somewhat healthy," Stivers said.
Ground balls, one run at a time, and and trust has been the key, he said.
"Our pitchers trust our defense and our defense trusts our pitchers," Stivers said. "We played a great team, but we play what we can control."
Pratt scored one run in the first after Sutton gave up two walks, runners advanced on a passed ball, and Jarod Gilmore grounded, scoring Easton Herring.
Ross Davis made a diving catch in right field then threw back to second to get the inning-ending double play to stop a Greenbacks scoring threat in the third.
Then in the fourth, Gilmore reached on a first-pitch single then moved to second on Sutton's throwing error on a pickoff move. Gilmore scored on a deep sacrifice fly to center for Pratt's second run.
The Greenbacks got their third run on a dropped ball at first on an infield chopper allowed Dakota Venard to score in the fifth inning.
Drake Evert drove the ball deep to centerfield, reached third on a passed ball, then got thrown out on a run down and Sutton struck out the next hitter to end the threat.
The second loss of the season doesn't feel good, Crites said, but the good thing he told his team afterwards is that nine juniors are coming back, and most of them are starters.
"We'll be back in the hunt next year. We should have a team to make it to state," he said. "Pratt did a good job and played a good game."
Pratt 100 110 0 -- 3 3 4
Hugoton 000 010 1 -- 2 4 3
Pratt--Forshee, Dean (5) and Evert. Hugoton--Sutton and Reid Davis. WP--Forshee. LP--Sutton. 2B--Hugoton (Mills). LOB--Pratt 5, Hugoton 4.