Suspense and intrigue were definitely present on Thursday night at the baseball field in Hamburg as the Nishnabotna Blue Devils went for their fourth consecutive Corner Conference regular season championship.
Those emotions may have been more difficult to detect, however, because the Blue Devils were dominating and the out come of the game, an eventual 5-1 decision, was never in doubt.
Eric Charboneau put the ball into play toward short stop with the bases loaded in the bottom of the first inning.
Thursday’s foe from Fremont-Mills committed an error and two runs scored to give the home team the only runs they would need.
Anybody doubting the Blue Devils’ prospects for victory needed only to wait until Chad Blank took to the pitcher’s mound in the top of the second. He recorded three straight outs, all by strikeout.
As the game wore on, the Blue Devils added a run in the second and a run in the third inning. Another Blue Devil crossed home plate in the bottom of the sixth to make the score 5-0.
Meanwhile, Blank pitched perfectly through 3.2 innings. Fremont-Mills broke through on a meak hit to left field, but that single represented half of the hit-production for the boys from Tabor.
The Knights didn’t get on by way of walk either as Blank issued just one free pass.
Fremont-Mills did get a run in the top of the seventh. The visitors needed hits and four runs to tie the game.
They got neither.
Blank induced a ground ball out unassisted to first base and then ended the game by inducing a ground out to shortstop.
With the last out having been recorded, the Blue Devils stormed the mound with smiles of delight and screams of celebration.
A goal that the team had targeted since last year’s title win had been realized.
Going into the game, Coach Blair Holman said the team had talked about a business-like approach that it felt would be key to success.
“We talk about it all the time—being engaged, being locked in and being focussed,” said Holman.
Blank’s presence on the mound, Holman said, certainly helped.
“He really set the tone for us,” said Coach Holman. “He’s been in pressure packed situations. I didn’t expect anything less.”
While nary a frown could have been detected in the post game on Thursday, Coach Holman said there was an element of sadness and finality in the Blue Devils winning a fourth straight title.
“It’s bitter sweet for sure,” said Holman.
The coach said he and the players were all experiencing the difficulty that comes with such an event. This will be the last Nishnabotna conference baseball title.
“It’s hard, but everything that comes to an end is hard,” said Holman.
Nishnabotna had two more games to play on its home field after Thursday, those being against Griswold and Shenandoah. Then there’s post season play and a chance to make a run to state. Rest assured that the team will do everything in its power to reach the ultimate goal.
“This season means a lot to a lot of people around here,” said Holman.

Chad Blank
For the Blue Devils’ senior pitcher, a starter since eighth grade, Thursday’s game was a page taken right out of the College World Series storybook.
The CWS approach the game with the right attitude and that’s something that Blank said his team wanted to emulate.
“We were just trying to play excited, play with fun, go out there and be confident and have a little swagger,” said Blank. “We go up to the CWS and those kids have fun. They have swagger.
“They go out there and get it done and that’s what we were trying to be,” said Blank.
Looking back at the game, Blank said the hit that broke up his perfect game was not easy to take. Unlike a lot of ball players, Blank actually allowed himself to think about the possibility of perfection.
Still, the Nishnabotna hurler said he was happy with a two-hitter and was excited to be able to win the title for the home fans on Thursday.
“It was awesome,” said Blank. “We were just trying to go out and do what we knew we could do.”