The amount of pressure put on a coach in their first season can be enormous. The pressure is even greater when that program is coming off of a state championship.
Last year, the Bluestem baseball team won the school’s first state championship. Following the championship, former head coach Daniel Scribner left the program to pursue a career as an Athletic Director.
Bluestem chose Grant Bachura to replace Scribner as head coach of the defending 2-1A champions. Bachura entered this season with zero high school coaching experience, but has excelled in his first season and has led Bluestem to another state tournament appearance after defeating Oxford 9-8 in 11 innings on Tuesday night.
The only coaching experience Bachura had prior to Bluestem was a 12-and-under summer baseball team.
“I just had to rely on all of the baseball that I had played throughout my career, and the coaches that I had during that time,” said Bachura.
“Going into my interview at Bluestem I knew that I was lacking experience but they gave me this opportunity and it has been an unreal past four months with this team.”
After receiving the opportunity from Bluestem, many people jokingly mentioned that he had some big shoes to fill. Bachura has definitely filled those shoes. The most important thing Bachura wanted to communicate when he first received the job is that they could not rely on last year’s success, and that it would not carry them this season.
In the first round of the regional tournament, Bluestem faced the No. 3 seeded Flinthills Mustangs. Flinthills put up a fight, but Bluestem came away with a 3-2 win. Coy Moran led the Lions with two hits. Hunter Cunningham drove in two of the Lions’ three runs.
In the championship game, Bluestem won by one run again. This time, the game required 11 innings to determine a winner.
After two scoreless innings, both teams added runs in the third inning, as the No. 1 seed Oxford took a 3-2 lead after three innings. Oxford added another run in the fifth to go up 4-2.
Bluestem exploded for four runs in the sixth inning to take their first lead of the game. The lead was short-lived however, as Oxford added two run sin the bottom of the inning to tie the game after six innings. The game remained tied at six until the Lions added three more runs in the top of the 11th and needs just three outs to get to the state tournament. Oxford made things interesting, scoring two runs in the bottom of the inning, but were unable to make up the deficit and the Lions finally came away with a victory.
Hunter Clift led the Lions at the plate with four hits and two RBI’s. Blake Bevan added three, and Coy Moran finished with two.
“Our success in the regional tournament really shows how far that we have come as a team this year,” said Bachura.
“We started out the season 0-4 and they never stopped competing day in and day out. We have improved on so many different levels. I could not be more proud of the effort that our players gave during that 11-inning championship game. More than anything I am glad that we went into Udall with a family mentality, played the game the right way, and never hung our heads when we could have. We played a complete 18 innings, and we are fortunate enough to be heading back to Great Bend for a second year in a row.”
The Lions will compete in the 2-1A state tournament at the Great Bend Sports Complex on May 24-25, with their first opponent to be determined.