Pioneers season ends at district tournament
ELKHORN, Neb. - Nebraska City’s season came to an end Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the B-1 district tournament at Elkhorn North in a 4-2 loss to Bennington.
With winds blowing straight in from centerfield it was tough day for the offenses and a great day for pitching.
Bennington’s starter Caden Anderson took advantage of having the wind behind him only allowing two hits through the first five innings of the game while enjoying a 4-0 lead. Finally, the Pioneers (12-11) fixed their approach at the plate in the windy conditions by starting the bottom of the sixth inning with three straight hits.
Tristan Kingery delivered and RBI infield single to score Sloan Pelican who doubled to start the inning making it a 4-1 game. After a fielder’s choice moved runners to the corners, Zac Hawley recorded and RBI groundout cutting Bennington’s lead to two.
But Anderson would get pinch hitter Jesus Martinez to groundout to end the inning to halt the Pioneer rally. Anderson then got the Pioneers in order in the seventh to finish off a complete game victory, allowing just five hits.
Coach Kyle Ferguson said it was just a case of “too little too late” for the Pioneers regarding their approach at the plate.
“We told them from the beginning the ball was going to float today,” Ferguson said. “We needed to hit the ball on a line, hit it on the ground and cut that wind in half.
“Some guys didn’t really buy into that approach early on and got themselves in tough positions and chased some bad pitches.”
Ferguson added that Nebraska City didn’t make the right adjustments at the plate on the fly, which is something good teams tend to do.
Bennington figured out how to counter the wind with its offense against Pioneer starter Cael Kreifel. The Badgers (14-12) took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Ethan Nguyen scored from third on a wild pitch.
Nguyen walked, was sacrificed over to second and moved to third on a single.
The Badgers scored two more in the third thanks to a laser beam double to center by Nguyen--who was on base three times with two hits-- that was never more than 10 feet above the grass.
Pioneer center fielder Nolan Beccard came on hard to attempt a diving grab, but the ball rolled by him allowing two runs to come home making it 3-0.
The fourth and final run for Bennington came in the fifth after Anderson singled and stole second to start the inning. Ethan Roth then drove in Anderson with a single that made it 4-0 and Anderson finished the game on the mound.
It was a long and emotional huddle for the Pioneers after the game, but Ferguson said he told his team he was proud of them and that this group had some big wins that put the program “back on the map.”
The Pioneers will graduate four seniors that contributed regularly, too.
“We’re going to miss (the seniors),” Ferguson said. “We have some big shoes to fill.”
Ferguson stayed after speaking to the team to chat with the seniors. With tears in their eyes, they all embraced one final time on the field.
“I just kind of told them I loved them,” Ferguson said. “Just because their Pioneer career is over doesn’t mean they’re no longer Pioneers.
We break (the huddle) ‘Pioneer family’ and that’s what Pioneer baseball is all about.”
Bennington (14-12): 0, 1, 2, 0, 1, 0, 0 - 4, 7, 1
Nebraska City (12-11): 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 2, 0 - 2, 5, 1
Other district baseball scores
C-2: Plattsmouth 14, Centennial 1. Plattsmouth plays Lincoln Christian Friday for the district title at 5 p.m. C-4: Raymond Central 9, Auburn 7. Bulldogs season ends at 10-9. C-5: Platteview 7, Falls City 0. Falls City's season comes to a close with a 5-14 record.