Cheney opens tourney holding off Cyclones

Mark Schnabel
The Kansan

WICHITA — The Cheney Diamond Dawgs opened play Tuesday in the 86th National Baseball Congress World Series with a “Slinky” game against the Colorado Cyclones.

Cheney kept taking a lead only to see the Cyclones get back into play before claiming a 5-3 win.

“We had a couple of games off, so it took us a while to get back in things,” said Cheney’s Andrew Stewart, who finished the game two for three hitting with an RBI. “I felt like the team had my back. We had to stay in and fight. We did a good job of staying in it.”

Stewart is from Lawrence. He plays for Wichita State after transferring from Barton County Community College.

“Playing on the new field was pretty special,” Stewart said.

“That first one’s always scary,” Cheney manager Pat Hon said. “We were off a couple of days. You don’t know how the new guys are going to do. It’s great to get a win, no matter how you do it. We knew this team was going to fight back.”

Newton Rebel Zach Bravo was picked up by Cheney for the tournament, pitching the top of the ninth. Bravo struck out a batter, allowed a single, but then got a ground ball for a double play to earn the save.

“We didn’t know that they were going to use me until today,” Bravo said. “Our regular closer got sick with the COVID. They told me they were going to need me today. I just came into the game throwing strikes. I just wanted to close the game out.”

Bravo has now thrown 9.2 innings in the tournament without allowing an earned run.

“I was coming off a really good season in Newton,” Bravo said. “I want to close it out with Cheney. They were talking about it as soon as we knew Newton wasn’t going to be in it. I beat them and I knew how good of a team they were this year.”

Cheney is the defending runner-up in the tournament.

While Cheney took off at the start of the year in Sunflower Collegiate League play, Hutchinson came back to tie for the league title. Hutchinson held the tie-breaker over the Dawgs.

Cheney held a 28-game winning streak at one point, and finished the season 33-6, 26-6 in league play.

“Not to take anything away from Hutch — they were a great team, one of the best teams the league has ever had,” Hon said. “We were pretty beat up down the stretch. The decision had to be made, do we try to get ready for the World Series or do we try to win the league championship.”

A challenge for the Dawgs was the talent upgrade every team in the league got due to the number of summer college leagues that shut down.

“I was getting phone calls three days before the season started,” Hon said. “That’s one of the reasons that Casey Walkup and myself put together the Sunflower Seeds team. We put that team together in six days just to give local kids and other kids a place to play.”

A Corrigan Bartlett squeeze bunt gave Cheney its first run in the third inning. An error allowed another run.

The Cyclones scored in the top of the fourth when Trey Vasquez was hit by a pitch with bases loaded.

The Dawgs appeared to break the game open in the bottom of the sixth with three runs. Caleb Farmer hit a sacrifice fly. Ed Scott hit an RBI double and Stewart hit an RBI single.

Blake Mattey hit a two-run home run for the Cyclones in the top of the eighth, the first home run of the tournament at Eck Stadium.

Mattey finished the game three for three hitting. Rebel Andrew Brautman finished one for four hitting for the Cyclones with a run scored.

Trevin Reynolds pitched five innings for Cheney for the win, striking out nine.

Walter Pennington took the loss for the Cyclones, 1-1 in the tournament. Pennington struck out four in three innings.

Rebel Lincoln Andrews was a late sub for Cheney.

Colorado Cyclone Blake Mattey punches out a base hit against Cheney Tuesday at the NBC World Series.