The seventh-seeded Fort Calhoun Senior Legion baseball team opened the Class B Area 3 Tournament by pushing the second-seeded, spring-season state champion Bennington Badgers.
The Badgers won 8-4 Friday night in Blair, but the Post 348 Pioneers set themselves up for tournament success with a 102-pitch performance from Zach Faucher, who just wrapped up his freshman high school season in the spring.
“We have all of our pitching tomorrow, except for him,” Fort Calhoun coach Brandon Wynn said. “We didn't plan on that. (Faucher) did a phenomenal job.”
Unfortunately for the Pioneers, the fielding behind its nearly-full pitching staff committed six errors in Saturday's elimination game against the Arlington Eagles. Despite a late comeback attempt, Post 348 saw its season end 11-9.
Pioneers' season ends
Fort Calhoun batters Ty Hallberg and Tylan Conner pushed across the first two runs of Saturday's elimination game, but a near-disastrous four-error second-inning cost their team.
Fort Calhoun fell behind 5-2 and couldn't quite ever catch up despite outhitting Arlington 15-7. The scoreboard showed six errors for the team in white and orange at the ned of the ballgame.
“It's tough. It's tough for all of us,” said Jamie Warner, who was playing his last game in Pioneer gear. “We're all a team out there, making noise out there together, but its just the little things that it comes down to. You've got to do those little things to win ball games. And if you don't do them, it's tough to learn.”
Fort Calhoun cut its 5-2 deficit to one during the third inning, which Warner started with a triple. Justin Myer pushed him across the plate before Jake Seina added an RBI on a sacrifice to cut the Eagles' lead to 5-4.
Undeterred, Post 71 would build its lead back up all the way to 11-4 before fifth-inning RBIs by Hallberg and Faucher. Down to its final three outs, the Pioneers scored three more runs during the top of the seventh frame before what could have been the tying run struck out in the batter's box.
The loss finished Fort Calhoun's season. It was 6-15.
“They definitely have a lot of potential,” Warner said of his Legion teammates. He's the only Pioneer player who'll have to hang it up after this season. “They've got to put their work in during the offseason. They've got to have a few kids step up and carry the the younger kids along, and do all the little things the right way, and it'll get them far.”
Badgers hold off Post 348
A day earlier, the Pioneers fell behind Bennington 5-0, but outscored the Badgers 4-3 over the last three frames.
“I think after the third inning, they should be happy with how they played,” Wynn said of his Fort Calhoun team. “If they would have had that same mindset out of the gate, we probably would have had a one- or two-run ballgame. It's probably a lot different coming down to the end like that.”
With Faucher keeping Bennington within range from the pitching mound, the Pioneers' offense started to put something together during the top of the fifth. Cole Klabunde started the inning with a single, which led to Hallberg's RBI bloop single to left field.
Conner later walked in a run before Nate Bonacci cut the Bennington lead to 5-3 on a passed ball.
The Badgers added three runs in the sixth to take a commanding lead, though Fort Calhoun responded. In their last chance during the seventh inning, Harrison Schmitt notched a leadoff walk before Hallberg's single. Schmitt eventually scored on a Bennington error, but Hallberg wouldn't as the Badgers recorded the third out on a pop fly for the win.