Gretna Post 216 and Fremont (First State Bank) went all three games of the Nebraska American Legion Class A playoff series to decide who headed to regionals.
Usually, the American and National division winners both head to regionals, but since regionals are in Hastings that team received an automatic berth as host. The playoff series was best of three format with the games being played at Gretna High School and Fremont.
In game one, played Friday, Gretna got off to a slow start and couldn’t recover. Fremont scored a run in each of the first two innings to lead 2-0 heading into the third inning.
After a scoreless third and fourth inning, Fremont added two runs in the fifth and four runs in the sixth inning for a 8-0 win to take a 1-0 series lead.
Gretna only mustered three hits in the game.
In game two, played Saturday, Gretna struck first and never looked back. In the top of the second inning, Gretna Post 216’s Bryant Jeary singled home Quinn Mason to lead 1-0.
Then in the third inning, Caden Opfer notched a RBI infield single before Mason clubbed a two-run homer to lead 4-0.
After Fremont scored a run in the bottom of the fourth inning, Gretna responded in the top of the fifth inning with a RBI single by Evan Beran, a sacrifice fly by Jeary and Beran scored on a passed ball to lead 7-1.
Fremont went on to score a run in the bottom of the fifth and two runs in the seventh for a 7-4 Gretna win to force a game three.
In the final game, also played Saturday, Gretna’s momentum quickly vanished in the first inning. Fremont tallied three runs in the first and a run in the second and fourth inning to lead 5-0.
“It was tough. Any double header you play, especially with the amount of intensity of these two games, it was just tough,” Gretna coach Bryan O’Flynn said. “I thought we were okay after game two and carried some momentum, but they scored early.
“We had some opportunities throughout the game, but we didn’t come up with anything early enough.”
Gretna threatened in the fifth inning when Joe Weis doubled to score Blake Grimm and then Mason singled home Weis. Gretna threatened with full bases after the score but a fly out ended the threat.
Fremont added a run in the bottom of the fifth inning before Gretna’s Zach Wiese homered in the top of the sixth for a 6-3 Fremont lead. Fremont went on to add three runs in the bottom of the sixth to end Gretna season.
Gretna Post 216 finished the legion season as National division champs and finished with a record of 29-20.
“I did think we were a little flat (in game one). We told them, ‘This could be our last day of baseball (Saturday), so come out and give it everything you have.’ And they did that,” O’Flynn said. “We came out (Saturday) and won game one and in game two (of the day), Fremont is just a good team. They’re just really good.”
Gretna finished 2-5 against Fremont during the summer.
“They’re just kind of scrappy and they have enough pitching. They keep you off balance and they field the ball,” O’Flynn said. “They don’t make mistakes in the field too often. Then offensively, they just fight pitches. They’re just scrappy and they fight.”
The ride Gretna finished the season on was a big step. Last legion season in Class A, Gretna finished 0-2 in the state tournament and then went 0-2 in the spring.
O’Flynn said credit goes to the eight Gretna seniors who led the way on the journey to win the National side of the state legion bracket and put the program on the right track for the future.
“It’s a boost. We were a heavy senior team. Those guys got us through a lot,” O’Flynn said. “Last year, I thought our team was better pitching wise and we go 0-2. This year, it’s not as deep, but that just shows you what those guys can do. A great group of seniors, a great group overall and we pushed it to the limit. We just came up short.”
Fremont 8, Gretna Post 216 0 - In game one, Gretna only managed three hits that came from Grimm, Weis and Jeary. Wiese pitched five innings and allowed four runs on six hits in the loss.
Gretna Post 216 7, Fremont 4 — Beran finished with two hits while Mason and Jeary added two RBI each. Weis pitched six innings allowing four runs on five hits in the win.
Fremont 9, Gretna Post 216 4 - Opfer, Mason, Beran and Jeary each complied two hits, while Weis, Wiese and Mason added a RBI each.