LINCOLN — It’s the bottom of the ninth, no outs, you have a two-run lead but singles are surrendered to the first two batters.
Time for a pitching change? That thought never crossed the minds of either Papillion-La Vista Pinnacle Bank coach Nate McCabe or his man on the mound, Justin Gassert.
Nick Wordekemper was ready in the bullpen, but he was only coming into Sunday’s American Legion Class A state tournament game against KB Building Services (Omaha Westside) if Gassert was issuing walks.
Gassert wasn’t — and didn’t — and after the long, final out landed in left fielder Sean Van Briesen’s glove on the warning track, Pinnacle Bank had a 4-2 victory.
Matt Waldron and Luke Biggs, the KB Builders players who had those ninth-inning singles, were left stranded on second and third when a fly ball to left by Drew Fitzmorris was just a few feet short of clearing the Sherman Field fence.
“I can live with hard-hit balls but I can’t live with walks,” McCabe said. “He’s a senior, he’s not going to play baseball in college, so that’s his game.”
Pinnacle Bank and Union Bank (Lincoln Pius X) will meet in Monday’s 7 p.m. winners bracket game after Union Bank defeated Kearney Runza 5-4 in 10 innings.
Union Bank’s winning run came when a balk was called on Kearney reliever Jamieson Oertle. That scored Sam Raun after he led off the inning with a double to left-center field.
In Sunday’s two elimination games, South Sioux City rallied for five runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat Medicine Man Pharmacy (Omaha Skutt) 8-7 before Judds Brothers (Lincoln Northeast) beat DJ’s Dugout (Bellevue West) 3-1.
Monday’s schedule begins with two elimination games — Judds Brothers vs. KB Building Services at 1 p.m., followed by South Sioux City against Kearney Runza at 4.
Gassert knew McCabe’s rules about avoiding walks, so he knew he wasn’t getting the hook. He also wanted to make sure teammate Geoff Birkemeier didn’t have complete-game bragging rights. Birkemeier went the distance Saturday in Pinnacle Bank’s 8-0 first-round win over Medicine Man Pharmacy.
“I knew from the start I wanted to go nine like Birkemeier did yesterday because that sets us up good for the next couple of games,” Gassert said. “There was no way I was coming out.”
McCabe had no plans to do that.
“As long as he said, ‘Coach, I’m good’ he wasn’t coming out,” McCabe said. “Our guys know they have to be economical with their pitches because we’re playing nine-inning games.”
Pinnacle Bank opened the scoring with a run in the second inning. Leadoff batter Landen Weisbeck was hit by a pitch from KB starter Matt Waldron. First baseman Jack Kalina then moved Weisbeck to second with a sacrifice bunt.
Van Briesen followed with a hit up the middle that was mishandled by second baseman Will Patterson, allowing Weisbeck to race home from second.
After missing out on two good opportunities earlier in the game to tie the score, KB eventually tied it in the sixth.
Right fielder Jake Meyers was hit by a Gassert pitch and moved to second on a ground out by Fitzmorris. First baseman Mike Waldron’s two-out single to right plated Meyers to tie the game 1-1.
KB took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the eighth when an infield error allowed Stueck to reach base and he eventually scored on a wild pitch.
Pinnacle Bank then scored three the way they always seem to get their most important runs — with two outs.
Matt Gay singled with one out, then with two outs Jack Kalina singled to right. A throwing error by Meyers in right field allowed Gay to race home with the tying run and Kalina went to third.
Van Briesen and Joey Ludemann followed with RBI singles up the middle. Van Briesen’s single scored Kalina,while Ludemann got Van Briesen back to the dugout.
The most frustrating part about the miscues for KB Building coach Bob Greco was how players didn’t respond well to the adversity created by the errors.
“We can stomach all of our errors, but you have to put them behind you once they’ve happened,” Greco said. “If you’re hanging your heads and pouting, you’re not ready for the next play. That’s what has to change.”
After a chat with his team just before he headed back to Omaha, Greco said he has no worries that everyone will be ready for Monday’s elimination game against Lincoln Judds.
“It’s not over for us by any means,” Greco said. “This will be a great learning experience for us. We will be ready to play.”
Pinnacle Bank (Papillion-La Vista) .......... 010 000 003—4 6 1
KB Building Services (Om. Westside) .... 000 001 010—2 7 4
W: Gassert. L: Waldron. 2B: KB, Luke Biggs.