Front Row (L to R): Shayne Campbell, Zeb O’Bryan, Bryce Heiser, Austin Hilker, Wyatt Liewer, Nick Haburchak, Bailey Thompson. Back Row (L to R): Coach Mark Thompson, Devin Jurgensmeier, Alex Thramer, Deven Fritz, Walker Liewer, Brenden Cleveland, Justin Appleby, and Coach Greg Appleby. (photo courtesy of Kaye Appleby)
The Pinnacle Bank Irish Juniors completed their season by competing in the Class B Area 5 Tournament at Central City last weekend. The young Irish Juniors team completed their season with an 11-11 record and next season looks promising as only one player is too old to compete for the Juniors next season and the Irish were playing their best team baseball of the year at the end of the season. Many players gained valuable experience and are looking to make a run at the State Tournament next year.
The Irish opened Area 5 Tournament play with a game against Aurora at 2:00 pm at Central City on July 11th. Austin Hilker took the mound for the Irish and threw a solid 4 1/3 innings. Hilker shut down Aurora in the first three innings before Aurora scratched one run across the plate in the 4th inning. The Irish were able to score one in the 2nd inning on a base hit by Devin Jurgensmeier and a double to the fence by Bailey Thompson. The Irish also scored one run in the 4th inning as Alex Thramer drew a walk, stole second, and scored on a double by Austin Hilker.
Aurora was finally able to take the lead in the bottom of the 5th inning as they scored three runs on two base hits and a sacrifice fly. Walker Liewer came in to relieve Hilker in the 5th inning and had a solid appearance in throwing in the 5th, 6th, and 7th innings. Devin Jurgensmeier was able to get the final two outs for the Irish in the 7th in a tough bases-loaded situation.
The Irish were able to get guys on base in the 4th through 7th innings but left eight runners stranded on the bases in these innings as they were unable to come up with the big hit when they really needed it and Aurora was able to hold on for a 4-2 win.
For the game the Irish had 2 runs on 4 hits while leaving 8 runners on base. The Irish defense was solid throughout as they committed zero errors. Justin Appleby was solid in making six putouts on the game from his shortstop position and Alex Thramer had four putouts at 2nd base. Aurora scored 4 runs on 5 hits and committed 2 errors on the game.
After advancing in the tournament with a bye on Saturday due to the 7-team bracket, the Irish were set to battle Columbus Lakeview on Sunday afternoon. The Irish were in control throughout this one as they downed Lakeview 7-3. Justin Appleby got the start on the mound and had control of the Lakeview team through four innings in only allowing one hit and facing only 13 hitters to record 12 outs. Appleby had good command of his fastball and his curveball was causing problems for the Lakeview hitters.
Justin Appleby delivers as Bailey Thompson holds down the fort
in center field. (photo courtesy of Kaye Appleby)
The Irish bats came alive early as Appleby and Austin Hilker had hits in the 1st inning and scored on a double to the wall by Bailey Thompson. In the 3rd inning the Irish plated four more runs as Jurgensmeier, Thompson, Nick Haburchak, and Walker Liewer all scored as hits were knocked in the 4th by Thompson, Walker Liewer, and Bryce Heiser.
Austin Hilker came on in the 5th inning to relieve Devin Jurgensmeier and closed out Lakeview over the final three innings to close out Lakeview in this tournament. The Irish were led by Alex Thramer, Bryce Heiser, and Bailey Thompson with two hits each in this game. Appleby, Hilker, and Walker Liewer had one hit each. The Irish scored 7 runs on 9 hits and committed 2 errors in the game. Columbus Lakeview had 3 runs on 7 hits and committed 3 errors.
On Monday, the Irish made the 2-hour trek to Central City again to face the #1 seeded Albion team. This turned out to be the game of the tournament as the Irish and the Albion squad battled for 9 innings before the Irish fell to Albion 8-7 in a drama filled game that saw both teams have many chances to win this game.
The story of the first part of this game was O’Neill hurler Walker Liewer on the mound. Liewer was splendid on the mound through the first 5 innings as Liewer had the Albion bats silenced to just one hit through the first 4+ innings. “Walker showed how good he can really be on the mound in this game. He had great presence and rhythm on the mound and his fastball was down in the zone and had great velocity,” stated Coach Appleby. The Irish bats responded by scoring three run in the 3rd inning on big hits from Alex Thramer and Austin Hilker as all of this rally started with two outs.
Albion came alive in the 5th inning with five runs as Justin Appleby came on in relief of Walker Liewer and the Albion team was able to respond with some good at-bats to take the lead from the Irish. However, the Irish responded in the bottom of the 5th as Alex Thramer reached base on an error and scored on a Devin Jurgensmeier single. Neither team scored in the 6th and Appleby shut down Albion again in the 7th. This led the Irish to the bottom of the 7th facing a one-run deficit going into the final at-bat. The Irish would not go down easily as Thramer reached base safely to start the inning and then scored as Bailey Thompson laced a single to center to score Thramer later in the inning. Hilker was on 2nd but was unable to score because Thompson hit the ball so hard to center that it went right to the center-fielder who was able to come up and make a strong throw to keep Hilker on 3rd. Unfortunately, the Irish left the bases loaded in the 7th and went to extra innings.
“This was a great example of what a funny game baseball can be, if Bailey would have hit that ball five feet to either side of that center fielder, we win that game, or even if he had hit it softer we would have scored, also we had two ground balls in that inning that could have scored a run, but neither ground ball had eyes, as they say in baseball lingo, and went right to the Albion fielders," mused Coach Appleby. "That is what makes baseball a great game, but also a very humbling game.”
Albion went silently in the 8th as Appleby continued to shut them down and the Irish had another chance in the 8th as Appleby advanced to 3rd after starting the inning with a walk, but couldn’t score. Hilker hit one hard, but it went right to the Albion center fielder to end the inning.
In the 9th Albion was able to score three runs on four hits to take an 8-5 lead into the bottom of the 9th. Again however, the never-say-die Irish squad came up with two runs and had the bases loaded but could not plate the tying run on this occasion. Bailey Thompson and Walker Liewer scored runs in the 9th inning and Appleby plated an infield single. For the game the Irish had 7 runs on 8 hits while committing 2 errors and leaving 13 runners on base. Albion had 8 runs on 6 hits and 3 errors while leaving 8 runners on base. Albion would go on to beat Aurora and then lost to Minden 5-4 as Minden advanced to the State Tournament.
“I was really proud of our guys in this tournament," said Coach Appleby. "We pitched it and played defense as well as we have all year and proved that we can compete with the Class B teams in our Area. Tournament Baseball is EXTREMELY exciting and fun and we need to continue getting young guys in this community to stick with baseball and get some back out next year to continue to grow the tradition-rich Irish baseball program!! We are a REALLY young team as only one player is moving on to Seniors next year, and we have five guys who could still be playing in Pony League and two of those guys could be 1st year Ponies. We came a long way this year and are really excited to continue this momentum into next year. This was a great bunch of guys to coach and they all had great attitudes throughout the entire season.
"I would also like to thank Assistant Coach Mark Thompson for all of his time and effort this season as well as all of the parents for supporting their sons and Irish baseball. A special thanks also goes to Schell Fritz who drove boys to away games every time we went out of town this year. Thank you also to Pinnacle Bank, Adamson Distributing, and American Legion Simonson Post 93 for all of your continued support of American Legion Baseball. Thanks must also be given to the Legion Baseball Committee for all of their hard work especially Tom Earley, Gary Hostert, and Janice Vosler who can be found working at almost every Legion Game. THANKS AGAIN!!!"