Omaha Roncalli came through in a tough spot.
Arlington Senior Legion pitcher Alek Timm struck out the first batter he faced during the top of the sixth inning, and forced a groundout from the second, before the Kelly Ryan Pride got something going. Four hits and three walks later, it led 10-5.
That same score ended the Post 71 Eagles' season Monday at Vets Field in Blair. They bowed out of the Class B Area 3 Tournament after a 1-2 showing that left them 12-11 for the summer.
Could things have been different had Arlington stopped Roncalli's two-out rally earlier?
“I'd have liked our chances,” Eagles coach Ed Menking said. “We battled all day.”
Post 71 trailed the Pride 6-5 through five innings, but it had been in the fight.
“At 6-5, it's not the same attitude,” Menking added. “I'm not saying we died (after Roncalli's four-run sixth), but you just see the letdown.”
After a 1-1 first inning, Arlington seemingly took control of the B3 elimination game during the second. Pitcher Logan Kirk struck out the last batter of the top half before Tyson Nicola walked with one out during the bottom to get the Eagles in business. He'd score on an error before Braden Rump singled with two outs.
Next, Trevor Smailys put another Roncalli pitch in play with his bat. When that ball fell out of a Pride infielder's glove, two more Arlington runners scored for a 4-1 lead.
Unfortunately for Menking and company, the advantage didn't stick. Roncalli took the lead right back with walks, timely hits and a passed ball, which made the score 6-4 in favor of the Pride.
A third-inning Ryan Arnett RBI single pulled the Eagles within 6-5, but Roncalli all but closed the door with its two-out, four-run rally during the sixth.
When all was said and done, Menking huddled his team up in the parking lot. Catcher Justin Allen — who'd just played his last game in an Arlington uniform — was the last to leave. Both his coach and he said they'd miss each other.
Menking said this summer's Eagles squad was filled with good kids, but just a thing or two kept them from being top contenders.
“We had trouble finishing,” he said.
Had they'd been able to get out of the top of sixth trailing just 6-5, though, the coach would have liked his team's chances.
Post 71 staves off elimination Saturday
The objective was to win a Class B Area 3 Tournament elimination game Saturday at Vets Field in Blair.
Despite Fort Calhoun outhitting Arlington 15-7, the Post 71 Eagles earned their desired result — a 11-9 victory and another baseball game on their schedule.
After the game, the Arlington players were honest with themselves and well aware they'd need to play better to keep advancing.
“We need to hit better,” outfielder Cameron Bruning said. “Kind of play with a better attitude.”
“Communication,” Cole Marquardt added.
Post 71 — which lost 11-2 to Elkhorn Mount Michael in the B3 Tourney's opening round — did just enough to win. It fell behind Fort Calhoun 2-0 before scoring five runs on just one hit and four errors during the second inning. Allen singled to lead-off before Timm put the ball in play, which led to an error and the Eagles' first run.
Bruning and Rump added sacrifices, while two more Arlington runs scored on passed balls.
A half inning later and still leading 5-4, the Eagles went on a 6-0 scoring run through the next 1 ½ innings. Bruning and Rump added two more RBIs in the third before Marquardt's two-RBI single highlighted the fourth. The Post 71 lead jumped from 9-4 to 11-4 on another error.
Still, Fort Calhoun battered the ball and kept itself in the game. The Pioneers scored two runs in the fifth and three during the seventh inning before a Kirk strikeout pitch ended the game with the tying-run standing in the batter's box.
Marquardt and Bruning said they were positive they would be able to hold Post 348 off.
“We just had to be confident in our pitchers,” Marquardt said.
“But players in general, too — just our team,” Bruning added.
Arnett picked up the pitching win as the Eagles improved to 1-1 in the B3 Tournament and 12-10 overall.
Eagles drop B3 opener 11-2
Post 71 was in trouble from the start of its opener in Blair.
Matt Brichacek's first-inning grand slam put the Eagles into a hole they were unable to get out of against Elkhorn Mount Michael. The Knights won Friday, 11-2, dropping Menking's squad into Saturday's elimination game.
After Tanner Pittman and Rump tallied Arlington singles during the top of the first inning, Mount Michael showed the Eagles how to hit — and score — during the bottom half. An RBI single put the Knights ahead 1-0 before it loaded the bags for Brichacek. The slugger cracked a Rump pitch over Kirk's head and the fence in left field for a 5-0 lead.
Mount Michael would add a run apiece during the second and third innings before a four-run fourth inning.
Arlington, meanwhile, scored its only two runs during the third frame. Marquardt — who was a courtesy runner for Rump — scored on Cooper Hilgenkamp's RBI single and Arnett ran across the plate on Trevor Smailys' infield single.
Pittman reached first base on a fifth-inning error, but the Eagles were unable to extend the game, making contact into three straight outs. Mount Michael won by run-rule, advancing to the second round of the winner's bracket.