A lethal combination of small ball offense and lockdown pitching prowess has the Nebraska City baseball team advancing to Thursday’s semifinal round game of the Eastern Midlands Conference tournament after a 6-2 Tuesday win at home against Bennington.
Brennen Bales, the Pioneer ace, got the start on the mound for Nebraska City, and aside from one swing, pretty much dominated the Badger hitters.
The Badgers did hit a home run and led 2-1 after two complete innings, but Bales took control of the game from there.
He finished with 10 strikeouts and two earned runs on four hits and four walks.
Offensively, the Pioneers didn’t have the big hit that Bennington enjoyed, but the Pioneer offense attacked relentlessly with six bunts and a pressure approach that led the Badgers to make mistakes on defense. Even power hitters like catcher Andrew Harrah and Jared Nemec got into the bunting act.
“We have never been able to play as much small ball as we have this year,” said Coach Tom Bales. “We can bunt up and down the lineup and that was huge today.
“We put pressure on them and they threw some balls away and gave us an opportunity to score runs.
“We only had four hits, but we put the ball down and made them make plays,” said Coach Bales.
Other players with a tally in the sacrifice hit/bunt line of the stat sheet were Trey Denniston, Hayden Miller, Noah Kasbohm and Sheridan Silvius.
“That’s what we work on everyday—bunting,” said Coach Bales. “It’s part of our repertoire.”
Players with hits on the day were Bales, Jake Kreifel, Nemec, and Denniston.
With Tuesday’s win, Nebraska City advances to play Elkhorn in the EMC semifinal game at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Elkhorn Legion Field.
The Antlers advanced to the semifinal by beating Waverly 8-4.
Nebraska City will enter the next round with a measure of confidence thanks to the Bennington win.
Coach Bales said the Pioneers had yet to win a conference tournament game since the EMC began playing baseball conference tournaments.
Getting the win was important enough that Nebraska City decided to pitch its ace in the opener, instead of saving him for later in the tourney.
“This is a big game for us. That’s why we went with Brennan,” said Bales. “I knew he would be tough on them (Bennington).”