The Abilene Rebels baseball team has qualified for the Senior Babe Ruth State Tournament for the fourth consecutive year after participating in this past weekend’s District Four tournament in Haven.
Abilene won its first two games of the tournament to advance to the championship game. The Rebels defeated Haven 12-7 in their opening game, then won a hard-fought game with Hesston 4-2, but dropped the championship game to CVL (Cottonwood Valley League) 22-5.
CVL squeaked past Hesston in the game just prior to the championship game 6-5 in its last at-bat. CVL was down 5-3 going into the bottom of the seventh inning, but came back on the depleted pitching staff of Hesston. The top two teams earned the trip to the state tournament.
In the game with Haven last Friday night, Abilene got up 2-1 in the first inning as the visitors. Haven then tied the game with a run in the second inning. The Rebels took the lead right back in the third inning with a run but then blew the game open with six runs in the fourth inning.
Abilene tacked on three insurance runs in the seventh inning to lead 12-2 with Haven coming up for their last at-bat. Haven made things interesting, as the Abilene pitchers had trouble throwing strikes consistently, by scoring five runs on only two hits. But Abilene held on for the 12-7 win.
“We were pretty good in this one, until the final inning defensively,” said Abilene coach Billy Hansen, who was a spectator for the tournament due to the new summer moratorium from the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA) for July 1-7. Jeremy Riekeman coached the team in coach Hansen’s absence from the field.
“We need to be better at closing games out, and staying focused mentally,” Hansen continued.
Offensively for the Rebels, Carter Taplin went 3-4 with a run scored, a stolen base, and two RBI. Bryce Riekeman was 2-4 with two runs scored and a RBI. Seth Hokanson was 1-3 with a run scored, a walk, and two RBI. Kaleb Becker went 1-4 with a run scored and three RBI on a huge triple in the game. Others with a hit in the contest included Kaden Coup, Roman Sanchez, Glen Friederich, Camden Meeks, and Ben Short.
On the mound for Abilene, Coup got the victory in tossing five innings striking out seven, walked none, hit a batter, allowed two hits, and one earned run. Meeks pitched one and a third innings in relief striking out none, walked six, allowed one hit, and four earned runs. Taplin finished out the game pitching two-thirds of an inning striking out none, walked none, allowed two hits, and one earned run.
In Saturday’s game, Hesston jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in its first at-bat without a hit while the home team Rebels would go down in order in their half of the inning. Abilene plated a couple of runs in its half of the second inning to tie the game after back-to-back singles from Friederich and Taplin led off the inning. They would both later score.
The Rebels took the lead in the third inning after a lead-off single from Sanchez who later scored on an error when Friederich put the ball in play. The Abilene defense kept the Hesston offense in check the rest of the way. The Rebels offense scored another run in the fifth when Coup was hit by a pitch to lead off, then stole both second and third bases, and was driven in by a double from Friederich. The Rebels would hold on for the 4-2 victory.
“That was a really good baseball game. Hesston just is pretty solid fundamentally and kept getting better as the season rolled on,” said Hansen. “Glen went the longest he has on the mound yet this season as he has been working through an injury, so that was good to see. We will need him down the road. Roman looked the best I’ve seen in a while too.”
On the mound for the Rebels, Friederich went five and a third innings striking out seven, walked one, allowed three hits, and no earned runs. Sanchez came in for the save going one and a third innings striking out four, walked none, allowed no hits, and no runs.
Offensively for Abilene, Becker was 1-1 with two walks and two stolen bases. Friederich went 1-3 with a run scored and two RBI. Others with a hit in the game were Sanchez, and Taplin.
In Sunday afternoon’s Championship Game with the Abilene team watching, they saw CVL’s walk-off comeback win over Hesston. CVL is primarily the Hillsboro team that the Rebels played in the regular season. They had Marion County on their jerseys for the tournament.
The game got off to a great start for the Rebels as CVL went down in order in their first at-bat. Abilene came up and put five runs on the board, with the big blow being a three-run homerun off Riekeman’s bat over the leftfield fence. Sanchez, Taplin, and Hokanson also had hits in the inning. The only other hit in the game would come off the bat of Meeks late in the contest.
Things started going downhill for Abilene in the very next inning. CVL came up and scored 14 runs on 10 hits. Then added eight runs in the third inning. They were on fire offensively. Abilene went down in order in two of their next three at-bats. They hit the ball, but couldn’t find a hole. Abilene would lose 22-5.
“Well, they hit one of our better pitchers who beat them earlier this season, that’s baseball,” said Hansen. “Sometimes there will be games like this where you just can’t stop the other team. The thing I was most disappointed in was how our team handled it, and some who just gave up. We will work on that.”
On the mound for Abilene, Coup got the start and went one and a third innings striking out one, walked one, allowed 11 hits, and 12 earned runs. Short tossed one and a third innings striking out one, walked four, allowed two hits, and three earned runs. Sanchez tossed the final one and a third innings striking out one, walked one, allowed two hits, and two earned runs.
Abilene, now 11-6-1, will participate in the Babe Ruth State Tournament in Columbus beginning Thursday. Abilene’s first game is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. against Grant County (Ulysses).
Abilene opened last year’s State Tournament with Grant County as well in winning 8-1. Other teams participating in the State Tournament are familiar too. Liberal, Parsons, and Wellington return to the tournament, along with the host Columbus.
Abilene finished fourth last year, losing a tough 2-0 decision to Liberal in the semi-final. Parsons defeated Liberal to take the title in last year’s Championship Game.
Kansas Senior Babe Ruth State Tournament
July 11-13 Columbus, KS
Liberal, Parsons and Wellington
Abilene, Grant County and Columbus
Game 1 – Liberal vs. Wellington
Game 2 – Grant County vs. Abilene
Game 3 – Parsons vs. Game 1 loser
Game 4 – Columbus vs. Game 2 loser
Game 5 – Parsons vs. Winner Game 1
Game 6 – Columbus vs. Winner Game 2
Game 7 - #3 American vs. #2 National
Game 8 - #3 National vs. #2 American
Game 9 – Winner Game 7 vs. #1 American
Game 10 – Winner Game 8 vs. #1 National
Game 11 – Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 10
Two teams advance to Midwest Plains Regional in Charleston, MO. July 17-21.