After hurting itself with five errors during the final three innings, it was a defensive gem that saved the day for the Omaha Roncalli baseball team.
Center fielder Jonah Holzapfel made a sliding catch in the seventh inning to prevent the tying run from scoring, and the Crimson Pride went on to edge Blair 7-6 in the B-5 district championship game Tuesday at Roncalli High School.
“He's a great center fielder,” Roncalli coach Tom Kupfer said of Holzapfel. “He made a couple of great plays (in Monday's semifinals). He had a heck of a district tournament on the defensive side. We've had guys step up and make plays all year, and it happened again.”
The win was Roncalli's 14th straight and secured its first trip to the Class B state tournament in four years. The tournament begins Saturday at Lincoln's Haymarket Park.
Tuesday's game — the first between the Crimson Pride (14-2) and Bears (8-6) this spring — featured three lead changes and two ties.
Roncalli took a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning when Sam Oehm lined a two-run single to center.
But Blair regained the lead by scoring three times in the fifth without the benefit of a hit — Roncalli committed four errors in that inning.
“Both teams kicked the ball around a little bit, but we did enough to win the game,” Kupfer said. “We had some spots where we were able to get a couple of runs across, and that was the difference.”
One of those spots was the bottom of the fifth, when the Crimson Pride took advantage of two Blair errors to score the tying and go-ahead runs. Oehm made it 7-6 when he was hit in the foot with a pitch with the bases loaded and two outs.
Blair had a chance to tie in the seventh.
Dane Appel singled to center to start the inning and went to second when Holzapfel overran the ball. Pinch runner Bret Carnell was sacrificed to third before Mitchell Macek hit a line drive to center. That's when Holzapfel made his catch and prevented the runner at third from scoring. Adam Fleming then struck out Brodie Wakefield to end the game.
The Bears left seven baserunners stranded Tuesday.
“We left so many plays out there,” Blair coach Jason Meggison said. “When you play championship baseball, you need to play a complete game.”
Sophomore starter Alec Bohm got the win for Roncalli. He gave way to Fleming, the team's ace who was Monday's winning pitcher against Fort Calhoun, after allowing Appel's single in the seventh.
Blair (8-6) ........................ 200 130 0—6 7 3
Omaha Roncalli (14-2) .... 210 220 x—7 6 5
W: Bohm. L: Macek. S: Fleming. 2B: R, Fleming. HR: B, Appel. R, Bohm.
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