After a hard night's work Thursday, Jason Stewart watched Friday's Blair Senior Legion baseball game from the dugout in Fort Calhoun
The right-hander didn't even wear a ballcap 24 hours after throwing a no-hitter against Bennington, but he intently watched the Bears' bats push across nine runs to best the Pioneers. Post 154 needed that offensive output, too, as the home team jumped out to a 5-2 lead. Ultimately, coach Brandon Wynn's team lost 9-5, but the Pioneers were in good spirits after testing their neighbors to the north.
“I think we did really well as a whole,” slugger Justin Myer said. “I think we just need to bring that in the future for these next couple of games.”
Blair (11-9 overall), meanwhile, did just enough to leave Fort Calhoun with a win.
“We were down, but came back,” catcher Aidan Mohr said. “We grind-ed like we normally do. Team of grinders.”
It was the Pioneers (2-8) who jumped out to a 5-2 advantage, though. Myer provided the first RBI knock. His ground-rule double bounced over the outfield fence during the bottom of the first inning.
The Post 348's slugger also sent a sacrifice fly to the warning track in the third inning before Ty Hallberg scored on a passed ball.
Later, Tylan Conner's RBI knock plated the Pioneers' fifth and final run.
Nolan Osterhaus (3), Morgan Rump (2), Mohr (2), Colin Quick (1) and Quincy Nichols (1), meanwhile, notched Blair's RBIs in victory. Osterhaus' fourth-inning, two-RBI triple was a highlight.
“Belt high, I thought,” the Bears' outfielder said of the pitch he sent to the outfield. “Saw a fastball and hit it.”
Pitcher TJ Swaney earned the Post 154 win, striking out five batters. Stewart had struck out seven the night before during a memorable night at Vets Field.
Stewart strikes out 7 in no-hitter
The moment got real tense with one more out to go Thursday in Blair.
With 20 Bennington batters down without a hit, Stewart could feel the pressure mounted. Words from a Blair Senior Legion assistant coach re-focused him.
“'Throw a groundball,'” the right-hander heard Kevin Rasmussen say from the dugout. The coach appeared just as nervous as the Bear, though. He sat on a bucket with his legs bouncing and hands wringing as he offered the advice.
But Stewart's 107th pitch brought relief for both men. It sealed the deal. It struck out his seventh Badger and closed out a 4-0, no-hit victory for Post 154.
“I don't even have words for it,” Stewart said. “I just threw a no-hitter. I didn't even know how to react when I struck that last kid out.”
Ultimately, he lost the ballcap and threw his glove before his teammates mobbed him.
“I just kept my mind right, and I knew I always had my defense behind me to make plays,” Stewart said. “And they made plays all night. It wasn't just me throwing strikes.”
The Bears also provided run support. Auggie Rasmussen walked in the leadoff spot to start the bottom half of the first inning, reaching second on a steal.
The No. 2 batter, Max Nickerson, hit him all the way into home with a single.
Blair added its second run during the next frame, which Jacob Rodriguez started with an infield single. Ben Aguilera moved him to second with a bunt and Swaney ripped an RBI double to the gap in right-centerfield.
The home team's lead then reached 4-0 with a two-run third inning. Cade Ulven notched a sacrifice and Nickerson scored on a passed ball.
All the while, Stewart managed against the Bennington bats. He walked six for the game, loading the bases in the fourth, but finished with the game of his life — his first no-hitter on a night when he and his fellow seniors were honored before the game.
The gem was caught by Shea Wendt, a newcomer to the Blair Seniors who'd never seen an in-game Stewart pitch before the first inning. On Thursday night, though, the pair played catch for seven hitless innings.
“I didn't even know what to say,” Stewart said as the crowd dispersed. “I was speechless.”
Pioneers fall to Louisville
While Blair no-hit its Thursday opponent, the Fort Calhoun seniors surrendered 19 to 10-2 Louisville.
The Pioneers scored seven runs themselves, but the Lions pulled out a 17-7 win in five innings worth of baseball.
Myer led Post 348 with a 3-run homer during the first inning. Joel Fern scored and Hallberg notched an RBI, but Fort Calhoun suffered its seventh loss of the season.
Junior teams compete, too
The Blair and Fort Calhoun Junior Legion baseball teams were also in action Thursday.
Blair lost against Bennington 10-4. Joe Rodriguez tried to start a rally in the sixth with a leadoff single, but the Bears fell to 11-5 this season.
The Pioneers, meanwhile, picked up a 5-3 Juniors win against Louisville on Thursday.
Then, on Saturday, Fort Calhoun hosted a home doubleheader. It won its first game 9-8 against Omaha Concordia and then its second against Pierce by the same score.
The two victories clinched the Pioneers' first Battle at the Fort tournament title in eight years, according to the team.