May 24, 2023

Larned's special season continues at Class 4A state tourney

Posted May 24, 2023 4:00 PM
Larned's Ty Smith in action at Pratt. (photo courtesy of Janet Fleske)
Larned's Ty Smith in action at Pratt. (photo courtesy of Janet Fleske)

Eagle Radio
Great Bend Post

Things were not looking great for the Larned High School baseball team by mid-April. After a pair of wins to open the season, the Indians dropped six-straight games in a matter of nine days. It's been rainbows since. Larned has won 12 of its last 13 games, including a 1-0 thriller against Pratt in the regional championship game last Tuesday. The Indians head to state for the first time since 2016.

"We feel pretty confident," said Coach Chad Erway. "We're going to get in there and try to play our ball. Brady (Hope's) going to pound the strike zone. We're going to play defense behind him. A couple timely hits and you never know."

Junior Brady Hope has shined this season, throwing all seven innings with just two hits allowed and three strikeouts in the regional finals against Pratt. In early May, he struck out nine in a complete-game win against then-unbeaten Russell/Victoria.

Indian junior Brady Hope. (photo courtesy of Janet Fleske)
Indian junior Brady Hope. (photo courtesy of Janet Fleske)

And it almost never happened. Doctors told Hope he had torn some ligaments in his elbow. They were not sure he'd be able to throw again.

"They were telling me I was going to have to go to Wichita to some special doctor," Hope said. "I came in and talked to Erway about it, pretty frustrated because I'd snapped my ankle the same season for football. Coming back and playing baseball was a little rough because I haven't been able to run as well. He helped me through it."

"It's kind of a special year on a multitude of levels," Erway said. "Brady and I shed a few tears in my office when he has a pretty devastating elbow injury. Doctors weren't real confident that he might not ever throw again, let alone throw a baseball and compete with the injury he had."

Another special aspect to the 2023 season has been the addition of LaCrosse players. The school previously contracted to play at TMP in Hays. Erway knows what it's like to not have a local high school team. Larned moved up to Class 4A with the addition of LaCrosse players, including Caden and Reece Morgan.

"I really had Caden in mind, for sure," Erway said. "He's a solid baseball player. Just the prospects of not being able to compete - a young man that's passionate about the game - that hit home with me. A few people approached me about maybe doing something, and a couple days later, I was up there talking to those boys."

Larned takes a 14-7 record into the Class 4A State Baseball Championships as the No. 6 seed opposite McPherson (18-4) Thursday at 1:15 p.m. in Salina. The winner will face either Rock Creek (21-1) or Paola (14-8) in Friday's 11 a.m. semifinal game.

"We were underdogs at our regional," Hope said. "We're going to be the underdogs against McPherson. That doesn't mean we can't go out there and beat them. I know we're capable of it with the defense we've been playing. If we just throw strikes, field the ball, timely hitting, we can beat anybody."