Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

By Stephen McKay

Potter, Kimball baseball players contribute to State Championship baseball run


Stephen McKay - Sidney Sun Telegraph

Austin Pile of Kimball came on in relief to pitch the final inning against Waverly on Monday afternoon.

There are 144 American Legion senior teams in Nebraska and Sidney found itself among the final few in its chase for a state championship.

This perspective notwithstanding, Post 17’s season came to halt yesterday afternoon as it suffered its second loss in the state’s double-elimination tournament at Gering’s Oregon Trail Park. The end came after 28 wins, heartstopping victories, miraculous comebacks and even a few dissapointing losses.

But only one team gets to call itself a Class B state champion - but so too do only seven teams get to call themselves district champions. Sidney is one of the select few.

“This is the most fun I’ve ever had playing baseball,” said Devon Sullivan who has been one of the teams most vocal leaders all season.

And most who saw the seniors in action would likely agree it was a fun team to watch. Whether it was the way the seniors stared down Class A opponent Westco early in the season or stunned Laramie by erasing a nine-run deficit. Maybe it’s the way they reversed fortunes over district foes Ogallala and Alliance in last-at bat victories. Surely the 1-0 thriller to clinch the B7 district championship won’t soon be forgotten.

“I’m really proud of this team, they had a great season,” said Head Coach Tim Herrera. “They gave me everything they had all year.”

Herrera, in his first season coaching the seniors, has led three consecutive teams to a district championship. He was at the helm as the juniors hoisted the hardware for the two years prior.

As for the future, the seniors will go forward without the services of six everyday starters - all of whom had a significant impact on the success of 2013. The departing seniors include Barrett Browne, Austin Crane, Tyson Herrera, Kane McLaughlin, Ty Ottoson and Sullivan.

Seward 8, Sidney 4

While the Seward Jays were more of a mystery to the seniors than the district foes it had vanquished in Ogallala, they opened up states confidently.

Playing as the road team, Sidney hung a three spot on the Jays’ hard- throwing Zack Klenke in the first inning. Though Klenke was probably the hardest thrower they'd seen all year, Sidney seemed little effected by the few extra miles-per-hour on his fastball.

"He was probably throwing about 84 or 85 (miles-per hour)," Herrera said later.

Mid 80's or not, Post 17 roughed up the talented right hander in the first inning. Harvey opened the contest with a sharp single down the left-field line. Tyson Herrera then joined Harvey on the basepaths with a poke of his own.

With two on the stage was set for cleanup hitter Devon Sullivan who responded with Sidney's third hit of the inning. Sullivan's knock scored Harvey for a 1-0 lead. Two more runs crossed the plate when Austin Pile crashed a two-out double to right.

But Seward exacted revenge in its half of the opening frame by scoring four runs. The Jays plated four more tallies in the third inning to take an 8-3 lead. With four of their six hits coming in the first inning, Sidney couldn't extricte itself from the deficit. In addition to not being able to reach Klenke after the firtst, Post 17 was victimized, at times, by shaky defense. Three of Seward's runs crossed unearned.

"We had such a good start, but then It felt like we got a little complacent after the first inning," said Harvey.

Said Sullivan bluntly, "We just have to play better."

While Sullivan (7-4) took the loss on the hill he led the team with two hits. Pile's double was Post 17's only extra-base hit.

Sidney 11, Gering 2

Post 17 met a familiar foe in round two. As it had it had in its previous three meetings, Sidney proved much the better as it eliminated the host from the tournament with an 11-2 thumping. Sidney finished the season with an 4-2 record against its district opponent.

"Our hitting was okay but our defense wasn't good enough today," Herrera said. "We're going to have play tighter defense if we're to continue."

As to Herrera's point, Sidney pounded out 10 hits. The seniors were also very impatient on the base paths. They swiped 12 bases including two each from Herrera, Browne, Crane and McLaughlin. But Sidney's five errors were uncharacteristic of the team that had played solid defense all year. Gering helped Sidney with seven errors of its own.

The seniors also got another strong post-season pitching performance from Harvey (7-2). He gave up just two hits and a walk while fanning nine in his complete-game performance. Only one of Gering's two runs were earned.

Post 17 all but sealed the deal in the second inning. The seniors scored five times in the frame and were never seriously threatened after that. Sidney opened the second with four consecutive singles from Pile, Browne, Crane and McLaughlin.

Crane's shot drove in Pile and Browne while McLaughlin's knock sent Crane home. Harvey and Onstott picked up an RBI apiece later in the inning. Crane's day included a triple-double of sorts with two hits, two RBI and two stolen bases.

McLaughlin's triple-double included two hits, two stolen bases and two runs scored.

Sidney added another run in the fifth inning and five more in the sixth. Onstott's run-scoring double was the big blow in the sixth. Sloppy Gering defense also aided the Sidney cause in the sixth.

"It was a little sloppy today," said Onstott. "Tomorrow we're going to have to play our A game to move on."

Waverly 14, Sidney 2

With not quite its A game, Sidney was victimized by unsteady defense as it yielded six unearned runs to Waverly in its second elimination game. The six Sidney errors in the game made for a total of 13 during the state tournament - unusual for this team that compiled a 28-12 record.

Waverly cashed in with four runs in the second inning and five more in the third before Sidney plated its first. Waverly's five-run third came with just one hit. Sidney committed three errors in the frame.

"We came out not ready to play today and it seemed like everything was moving in slow motion," Herrera said. "We just never caught a break in the game."

Down 9-0 as they entered the home third, the seniors put four consecutive batters on base. Ty Ottoson, Harvey and Onstott each singled and Herrera walked. Onstott's knock plated Ottoson but Harvey was cut down out at the plate.

Herrera scored the second run after his delayed steal and a passed ball put him on third. Sullivan's sacrifice fly did the rest.

Herrera (5-2) took the loss after facing two batters in the fifth. After throwing 98 pitches entering the fourth inning, he was removed in favor of Pile.

"It was a good year, but maybe we didn't come out focused today," Tyson Herrera said. "I don't know. maybe we were a little intimidated."

As Herrera and five of his teammates have lost their eligibility, it won't be long before the focus turns to next season.

"We're losing some really good players but there are going to have to be some juniors to step up next year," said Harvey. "There are some good guys coming up so I expect this team to go to state again next year."


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