By Travis Mounts
The Haysville Aviators finished their season on a high note, placing fifth at the National Baseball Congress World Series at Lawrence Dumont Stadium in Wichita.
The Aviators – in just their second year of existence – played their first season in Haysville this summer and performed well in their first-ever appearance in the NBC. The Aviators finished third in the Walter Johnson League and earned a berth in the NBC’s first-week tournament, a play-in to the main event held last week.
“It was a special year. There were a lot of emotions involved for the coaches and me because we invested so much into this season. We found a town that we really like and that likes us,” said owner Kris Wheeler. “It was such an emotional ride. Toward the end, we won so many games.”
The Aviators won the first week tournament with a 4-0 record. Then they won their first two games in the double-elimination tournament. They lost their final two games, however, a 10-1 defeat to the National Junior College Athletic Association’s national team on Aug. 5, and a 7-3 loss to the Hays Larks last Thursday who eliminated Haysville from the NBC.
Haysville took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third but the Larks answered with 2 runs in the bottom of the fourth. The Aviators regained the lead with several key hits by scoring 2 runs in the top of the seventh for a 3-2 lead.
The Aviators rode the pitching of Lance Spongeberg into the bottom of the eighth inning, but that’s when the Aviators hit some turbulence. The Larks scored five times that inning as the Aviators made three pitching changes.
Hays had good scoring chances earlier in the game, but twice – once in the third inning and again in the fourth – shortstop Cody Sharrow threw to catcher Cole Heberling for an out at home plate.
“Sharrow has been good all season. He helped us be as good as we were,” coach Gabe Grinder said.
Three Aviators were named to the All-American Team by the NBC. Spongeberg and fellow pitcher Cory Rhodes and outfielder Jacob Lamoreaux were named to the team.
Over the team’s final 27 games, the Aviators posted a 21-6 record. More impressively, the team finished the season with just three starters and seven pitchers. During the NBC, the team lost Rhodes to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization.
“We played tremendously well down the stretch,” said Grinder. “We just ran out of pitching. We really only had three starters going into the tournament.”
Rhodes struck out 13 against the San Diego Force, the highest single-game total of any pitcher in the tournament. With six wins over two weeks, the Aviators had more tournament victories than any other NBC team this season.
Wheeler said it was a special year.
“The amount of time, labor and effort that you put into it, especially with a coach like Gabe Grinder, you become best friends. You say, ‘Look at what God did with guys like us,’” he said.
On Monday night, the Haysville City Council presented the team with the keys to the city and a certificate recognizing the Aviators’ accomplishments this season. In return, the team gave the city its plaque for winning the first-week tournament and its fifth-place trophy from the NBC World Series to keep on display at City Hall.
The Aviators were active in the community. They hosted several camps and participated in events around town including the citywide cleanup and reading programs at the library. Wheeler said that helped build team chemistry and helped forge a bond with the community. The recognition from the city was icing on the cake, he said.
“It shows us that the city is behind us, that they really care for us and value us. It was special,” Wheeler said. “We want to make an impact in the city, whether it’s economically or with kids.”
The team is already planning for next season. The Aviators want to have a larger roster, and that will mean needing more host families than this year. For information on being a host family, call 316-650-2534, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the team’s website at www.haysvilleaviators.com.?
Aviators into the "Super 6" at NBC
The Haysville Aviators play Thursday night in the consolation bracket of the National Baseball Congress World Series.
The Aviators suffered their first loss in either the NBC World Series or the play-in tournament on Tuesday, Aug. 5, a 10-1 to the NJCAA National team. On Wednesday, the NJCAA National team beat the Hays Larks, who will be Haysville's opponent on Thursday night. Game time is approximately 10 p.m.
The NBC is a double-elimination tournament. The Aviators are now in a must-win situation in every game they play. There are three games on tap Thursday. The San Diego Waves play the Santa Barbara Foresters, and the NJCAA National Team plays the Seattle Studs.
Aviators soar into NBC semis
From the Aug. 7 print edition
By Travis Mounts
The Haysville Aviators are becoming the darlings of the 80th National Baseball Congress World Series.
The Aviators, in their first year playing in Haysville, soared into Tuesday’s semifinal matchup by winning the first-week play-in tournament last week and then securing two victories in entirely different fashions over the weekend.
Haysville beat the highly touted Everett (Wash.) Merchants 2-1 on Saturday morning then ripped the Arvada (Colo.) Colts 10-4 on Sunday evening.
“I think we’re playing some of the best baseball we’ve played all summer. We believe we can win every time we step on the field,” said head coach Gabe Grinder.
He said the Aviators were getting great pitching and great defense and combining that with timely hitting.
The pitching is the most surprising part. The Aviators are down to just seven pitchers. Injuries and the Major League Baseball draft hit Haysville early in the season, but what was a bit of weakness has become a great strength for the team.
“Guys are just gutting it up and finding ways to win and to outcompete their opponents. It’s the same pitchers,” Grinder said. “When a guy can pitch with a 4-0 lead, it makes it a lot easier than pitching 0-0 or behind 1-0.”
The Aviators were struggling early Sunday and trailed 2-0 after four innings.
“We didn’t have good approaches early on (Sunday). We talked about it in the fifth inning and then came out beat them up over the next four innings,” Grinder said.
Haysville delivered knockout blows in the fifth through eighth innings, scoring 10 runs. That included 4 runs in the top of the seventh and 2 runs in each of the other innings for a 10-2 lead. Arvada added two runs in the bottom of the eighth but got no closer.
“It’s college baseball at the end of the day. If you hit the ball enough they’re going to make a mistake,” Grinder said.
It was a different kind of matchup on Saturday. The game was scoreless through seven innings. The Aviators scored a run in the top of the eighth and ninth innings for a 2-0 lead. The Merchants scored 1 in the bottom of the ninth but couldn’t manage the tying run. Haysville outhit Everett 10-5.
“That was a phenomenal baseball time. We outpitched them and picked up key hits when we needed them,” Grinder said.
On Tuesday the Aviators played the NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) National Team on Tuesday. Results weren’t available at press time Tuesday. See the Sun-Times website at tsnews.com or our Facebook page for an update.
Tuesday’s semifinal winner will play Wednesday against either the Hays Larks or the Santa Barbara (Calif.) Foresters for a spot in Saturday’s title game. Tuesday’s losing teams will drop into the consolation bracket and play Thursday (and possibly Friday) in an effort to play their way into the title game. The NBC is a double-elimination tournament, excluding Saturday’s championship game, which is winner-takes-all.
Grinder likes his team’s chances.
“If we play the way we’ve played, we’ve got the chance to beat anyone on given night,” he said.
Aviators advance to NBC World Series
UPDATED Aug. 1:
The Haysville Aviators have advanced to the National Baseball Congress World Series.
The Aviators won their final two games of the first week play-in tournament, beating the San Diego Force 6-1 in Tuesday's semifinal and then topping the Sedalia (Mo.) Bombers 7-4 in Wednesday's championship.
The Aviators will open play at 8 a.m. Saturday against the Everett (Wash.) Merchants. The winner will advance to the second round and face either Arvada (Colo.) Colts or the Valley Center Diamond Dogs on Sunday. The losing teams from those two games will also play Sunday in an elimination game. Game times have not been set for Sunday.
This weekend is "Baseball 'Round the Clock" at Lawrence Dumont Stadium.
From the July 31 print edition:
By Travis Mounts
The Haysville Aviators baseball team entered Tuesday with a winning streak in the first-week bracket at the National Baseball Congress World Series at Lawrence Dumont Stadium in Wichita.
The top two teams from the first week will advance to the full NBC World Series, which begins on Friday.
With a pair of wins on Friday and Sunday, the Aviators were in the winners bracket and just one game away from this week’s title contest.
Haysville opened the tournament with an 8-3 win over the El Dorado Broncos, an NBC regular. The Aviators then notched a 4-1 victory over the Puerto Rican national team.
It was a tight contest against El Dorado until the Aviators scored 3 runs in the top of the fifth and added 2 runs in the sixth to take a 7-2 lead. Haysville outhit the Broncos 13-9.
Haysville scored 3 runs in the top of third against Puerto Rico, which proved to be enough. Both teams added a run in the eighth and the Aviators logged 10 hits to just 4 for Puerto Rico.
The Aviators were scheduled to face the San Diego Force on Tuesday night. Results were not available at press time. Tuesday’s winner advanced to face either the Derby Twins or the Sedalia (Mo.) Bombers on Wednesday night. The winner of that contest moves on to the NBC World Series.
Since this is a double-elimination bracket, the losing teams from Tuesday’s semifinals will drop into the consolation side of the bracket with games Wednesday and a consolation final on Thursday against the loser of Wednesday’s championship game.
A continually-updated bracket can be found online at www.nbcbaseball.com/images/content/files/bracket.pdf.