Baseballs often get lost at South Omaha's Brown Park.
The thick woodland surrounding John Stella Field on three sides has swallowed-up fouled-off pitches and long homers for decades. Kids watching rarely give chase knowing it's a lost cause.
The Blair Senior Legion baseball team didn't hit any homers Saturday during its first day at the Dave Van Metre Classic Tournament, but that doesn't mean its opponents had much luck tracking the ball off the Bears' bats either. Post 154 started the tourney 2-0 with 19 runs in 11 innings. Eight batters notched RBIs with AJ Bilslend and Colin Quick leading the way with three each.
“We're seeing the ball better,” Quick said. “We're getting hits when we need them.”
“I think we're in the correct mental state of the game,” Bilslend added.
Blair topped the Millard Sox Gold 11-5 in their Van Metre opener — a six-inning affair. Millard, the visiting team on the scoreboard, notched the game's first run, but the Bears responded with four during the bottom half of the first frame.
Jack Nielsen hit a leadoff single, later scoring on a passed ball to get coach James Bilslend's squad going. After Jacob Rodriguez walked to load the bases, Max Nickerson batted in his team's second run. Ben Aguilera and Aidan Mohr, who caught both of Saturday's games behind the plate, followed suit with their own RBIs to give Blair a 4-1 advantage.
The Sox pulled within one during the top of the second inning, but quickly discovered that they'd be unable to keep pace. With both Nielsen and AJ Bilslend on base, Quick hammered a two-RBI double to give his squad a 6-3 lead druing the bottom half. Rodriguez tripled in the next at-bat, scoring his teammate for the four-run advantage. Both extra-base hits flew far over the Millard centerfielder's head.
Bilslend, Quick and Aguilera all added RBIs as the game went on, while Quincy Nichols stole home. Quick earned the pitching victory after Treyton Jones finished the game off with two innings of work.
Though the Bears were facing a doubleheader, Bilslend said they were focused on Millard all the way through.
“We want to stay focused on the first game,” he said. “We don't want to get ahead of ourselves.”
It helps when when the team knows it has the hitters and hurlers to get through more than one game in a day.
“We have lots of confidence,” Quick said.
It showed in Post 154's 8-0, five-inning shutout of Creighton Prep during the second contest. Nickerson earned the pitching win, but the Bears' bats once again stole the show. Quick scored on a second-inning passed ball before the right-handed pitcher helped his cause with a sacrifice to make the score 2-0.
From there on, the Bears notched two runs an inning. Auggie Rasmussen tallied an RBI during the third frame, while Bilslend ripped a two-RBI single by the Prep third baseman with two outs in the fourth.
Nielsen, after leading off the doubleheader with a single nearly five hours before, then stopped the second game by run-rule with a double over the Bluejay leftfielder's head during the fifth inning.
Creighton Prep and Millard Sox Gold didn't lose any baseballs to Blair homers at Brown Park, but they couldn't track them down all the same as the Bears outscored their opponents 19-5 in 11 innings.
Post 154 was scheduled to continue Van Metre Classic play Sunday, but the game was called by weather.