Nebraska City Seniors rally past Hickman, 6-5

Kirt Manion
Nebraska City News-Press
Adam Dia, NC Seniors
Adami Dia, left, NC Seniors
Brayden Betts, NC Seniors
Cael Kreifel, NC Seniors
Cael Kreifel, NC Seniors
Cael Kreifel, NC Seniors
Cael Kreifel, NC Seniors
Clay Stovall, NC Seniors
Clay Stovall, NC Seniors
Clay Stovall, NC Seniors
Zack Tesarek, left, NC Seniors
Jordan Williams, NC Seniors
Jordan Williams, NC Seniors
Jordan Williams, NC Seniors

Forget about championships for a second. And, while you’re at it, forget about trying to put Tuesday’s win for the Nebraska City American Legion Seniors baseball team into some greater context.

Rallying against a solid Hickman team behind a host of heroes and a great pitcher—that should be good enough. I mean, it was fun—right?

Nebraska City beat Seward 8-0 in the first round of the Eastern Nebraska Baseball League tournament on Tuesday and then fell behind to Hickman in the next round, one which appeared to be headed toward a reversal of that Seward result.

Not so fast. The NC Seniors were not done yet.

The homestanding NC team rallied from down 5-0, tied the game, and then won it in an extra inning. 

It could have gone the other way.

“It would have been really easy for these kids to quit because we made some uncharacteristic mistakes,” said NC Coach James Widoe. “The thing about these guys is they just never quit.”

Widoe said the team just needed a spark to fuel them, a good at bat, a good approach, and then fortunes would change. Obviously, they got the spark.

After Nebraska City scored its first run, Adam Dia sparked a rally. Dia singled in a run before NC recorded its second out. Obviously, had Dia recorded an out instead of a hit, the game might have turned out differently.

It was good to see for Dia, a Legion player on his last year of eligibility. He didn’t play last year, but the members of the team wanted him back this summer. Widoe said that Dia is a good kid, who will do anything for you. And Widoe pointed out Dia had already had a walk off hit. Tuesday was not a first time thing.

The rally continued and the score got tied. 

While hitting and scoring are essential to a come back, so is pitching and defense. Enter Jordan Williams. He’s another one of those guys on his last year. He was a young high school senior, so he was able to come back after a year of college and play one more time. Because this summer is the last one for Williams, he’s willing to put it all on the line. Williams has had some arm troubles in the past and could have opted to pitch less this summer or not at all. On Tuesday, Widoe said Williams would have thrown whatever pitches necessary and deal with arm soreness later.

The ball was coming out of Jordan’s hand with velocity, so fast that catcher Cael Kreifel was suffering a bit just behind the plate. Not like Cael was saying throw slower though. Williams kept firing laser beams and kept Nebraska City in the game.

“His attitude this summer has been really strong. He’s just a bulldog for us,” said Widoe.

Nebraska City got its sixth run in an extra inning and then defended in the bottom of the eighth since they were the home team by location but the visiting team on the scoreboard in tourney play.

It took a clutch double play to get NC to the finish line. Clay Stovall, the NC short stop, had made an error earlier. Given the chance to correct it, Stovall began a double play.

“For Clay to make that play, and for Zack (Tesarek) to have really good footwork on that turn, is huge,” said Widoe.

Here’s the blow-by-blow of how it all happened on Tuesday.

Hickman got a run in the first inning and a home run in the second. They led 3-0 after two innings. An error gave Hickman its fourth run and an RBI double made it 5-0.

Nebraska City’s offense was struggling. They got the lead off man on in the fourth with a double and then recorded three outs. They got a lead off man on in the fifth with a walk and then recorded three outs.

Williams began pitching in relief of a solid four-inning outing by Quintin Holman and got three outs in the bottom of the fifth inning. 

But the team needed offense.

Sloan Pelican had a hard line out to start the sixth.

Williams got a double and Holman followed with a single.

Cameron Elshire, running for Williams, got a good read on a ball by the catcher and sprinted home to give Nebraska City its first run.

Kreifel singled and then Dia had NC’s first RBI of the frame to make it 5-2.

After the second out was recorded, Brayden Betts reached on a hit and that made it 5-3. Stovall earned a walk and Eli Southard put the ball in play. Hickman committed a two-run error on the Southard hit and it was 5-5. Hickman then got the third out and ended the half inning.

Williams got three straight outs in the sixth. Both teams had runners on base but neither got runs in the seventh.

Betts reached on an error to start the eighth. Stovall worked a walk and Southard was hit by the pitch. A Pelican RBI fly out put Nebraska City ahead 6-5. 

After a hard single by Hickman to start the bottom of the eighth, Nebraska City turned a double play and was one out away from a come-from-behind win. Williams induced a fly out to Southard in centerfield and NC won the game.

Nebraska City finished the game with six runs on eight hits and had two errors.

Williams had two doubles. Kreifel had two singles. Stovall, Holman, Dia and Betts each had singles.

Holman pitched four frames, struck out five, walked three and allowed five runs, two earned, on five hits. Williams pitched four frames, struck out six, walked two and allowed no runs on two hits.

Seniors 8, Seward 0

Nebraska City scored eight runs on nine hits with one error.

Quintin Holman, Sloan Pelican and Zack Tesarek each had a single and a double. Jordan Williams had a double. Adam Dia and Brayden Betts had singles.

Betts pitched five frames, struck out five, walked three and allowed no runs on three hits.

Waverly 1, Juniors 0

Nebraska City got a great pitching effort from Keston Holman and lost by the slimmest of margins on Tuesday in first round action of the Eastern Nebraska Baseball League tournament at Hickman.

The game was scoreless through six complete. 

Waverly, the home team on the scoreboard, got a runner to second on an error in the bottom of the seventh. A pair of intentional walks ended up loading the bases and Waverly got its run on a hit-by-pitch.

Nebraska City finished with no runs on two hits with just that one error.

Nolan Beccard and Zach Bassinger had singles.

Keston had 69 pitches in 6.1 innings. He struck out nine, walked three and gave up one unearned run on three hits.