SALINA — Towanda-Circle was able to take advantage of the limited scoring opportunities it had against Concordia left-hander Nathan Gieber.
Concordia was unable to do the same against Circle right-hander Garrett Hutson.
Circle scratched out one run in the third inning, and added two in the sixth.
Third-seeded Concordia left baserunners stranded at second and third in the bottom of the fourth inning and the bases loaded in the seventh in falling 3-0 to the sixth-seeded Thunderbirds in the opening round of the Class 4A state baseball tournament Thursday night at Dean Evans Stadium.
“Really, they got one key hit in that helped them. If we would have gotten that key hit, it would have helped us,” Concordia coach Brandt Hutchinson said.
Gieber was 7-0 with a 0.23 earned run average going into the game. He gave up three runs, just one earned, on three hits, struck out nine, walked four and hit two.
Hutson, who was 6-1 with a 0.68 earned run average, shut Concordia out on six hits. He struck out nine and walked one.
With the loss, Concordia finished up the season at 17-3.
“Winning a fifth league championship in a row and getting to the state tournament for the second year in a row, those are great accomplishments,” Hutchinson said, “They are competitors and we are disappointed as a team, but they have nothing to be ashamed of. They represented our team well and they represented the community well.”
Circle, now 17-7, snapped the Panthers’ 14-game winning streak and advances to the semifinals to play Topeka-Hayden this afternoon.
Hayden (17-7) upset second-seeded Andale/Garden Plain (21-2) 5-1 in the opening round.
Top-seeded Iola (18-0) blanked Coffeyville-Field Kindley 5-0, and fifth-seeded DeSoto (16-6) got past fourth-seeded Pratt (16-6), 7-0.
Iola and DeSoto were playing in the other semifinal this morning.
Gieber and Hutson each cruised through the first two innings.
Hutson struck out five of the first six Concordia batters he faced, all looking.
Circle’s Jesse Carpenter and Lucas Hystop drew consecutive walks to start the top of the third inning.
Gavin Hutson hit into a double play, with Carpenter advancing to third base.
Carpenter then scored on a passed ball to give the Thunderbirds a 1-0 lead.
Concordia had an opportunity to tie the game in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Drake Hake led off with a walk.
Jordan Mehl laid down a bunt that was misplayed, and he reached base safely.
With runners at first and second and no outs, Trevor Nordell bunted, but Hake was forced out at third base.
A passed ball allowed Mehl to advance to third and Nordell to move up to second with one out.
Gieber struck out looking, and Skyler Hittle grounded out to end the inning.
“We had guys at first and second with no outs and our rbi guys coming up. We lost that opportunity, but we were facing a good pitcher,” Hutchinson said.
Gieber hit Carpenter leading off the top of the fifth inning, but then picked him off of first base. He struck out the next two batters.
Derek Pearson singled with two out in the bottom of the fifth.
Ethan Bechard, running for Pearson, advanced to second base on a passed ball, but Will Strommen grounded out.
Circle tacked on two runs in the top of the sixth inning.
Kaden Fowler led off the inning with a walk, and Breaden Kirkpatrick beat out an infield single.
With Garett Hutson at the plate, a pitch in the dirt allowed the base runners to advance.
Gieber struck out Hutson, but Alan Longshaw delivered a two-run single to put the Thunderbirds up 3-0.
“That hit was with two strikes, and we thought we had the third strike the pitch before. It was a slap hit, and it found a gap,” Hutchinson said.
Cameron Kifer grounded out and Tanner White struck out.
Hake started the bottom of the sixth inning with a single.
Mehl then lined a shot to right field that Fowler was able to make a diving catch on.
Nordell and Gieber grounded out.
After Gieber retired Circle in order in the top of the seventh inning, the Panthers attempted to mount a comeback.
Hittle got things started with a single.
Nick Thomas hit the ball sharply, but Circle was able to turn a double play.
“If we hit it four or five inches the other way we have got two on with two of our hotter hitters up,” Hutchinson said.
Tanner Gilbert followed with a base hit.
Pearson hit a soft ground ball up the first base line, but was misplayed, and he reached base safely.
Alan Garcia went in to run for Pearson.
An infield single by Strommen loaded the bases with two out.
Hutson was able to strikeout Hake, the leadoff hitter, to end the game.
“We didn’t quit. We were down 3-0, and the momentum was against us. We kept fighting,” Hutchinson said,”We just couldn’t get that one thing that would switch the momentum.”