Blair Little League's first game of the Minor Nebraska State Baseball Tournament came down to the final half inning Thursday at the Youth Sports Complex.
“I was confident,” relief pitcher Jake Baker said before some honest reflection. “Sort of confident … Very nervous, and just hoping that our defense would help me win the game.”
The age 9-10 all-stars needed three outs to best Hillside Little League and got them, winning 9-8 in six innings. The victory kicked off Blair's state tournament run on Eagle Field. The team eventually finished up Saturday with a 1-2 record.
Though Blair scored nine runs against Hillside, infielder Landry Larsen believed it was his team's defense that helped it earn a one-run victory during the opener.
“I played good at second and I had a lot of stops,” he said before highly grading his teammates' performances. “Good.”
The first out of the final inning came when Hillside hit a liner toward first base. Cole Baker stood his ground and came up with the catch.
Luke Donner recorded the second out on a fly ball before Quentin Bretey made a strong throw from third base to first for the third and final out on a grounder. The toughest throw of the game set off a jumping up-and-down celebration by Blair players and coaches — Tim Lantry, Sean Baker and Gabe Petersen — alike.
While Jake Baker finished the game on the pitching mound, Cole Baker had started, earning the signed game ball for his efforts.
Offensively, Blair scored four of its nine runs during the first inning. Larsen hit an RBI single, eventually eventually scored on a passed ball and watched from the dugout as Rowan Morgan tallied another RBI hit.
The all-stars added to their lead in the second inning when Will Lynch scored on a passed ball. Ahead 5-3, Bretey knocked in a run before scoring on another Hillside pitch got by its pitcher.
Last, but not least, Leveret Stricklett pushed across Blair's eighth run on a fourth-inning sacrifice before Jake Baker's RBI single in the fifth.
After Thursday's win, the Minors played Memorial Little League on Friday, falling 8-6. A day later against Grand Island Northwest, Blair lost a close 4-3 game.