'Amazing' at state

Bears rally past 2-time champs, advance in Class B


Blair High School junior Nelson Kosch didn't think “great” was a good enough word to explain how he felt after the Bears' come-from-behind state baseball victory Tuesday in Omaha.
“Beating them was a great …,” he said, stopping himself. “An amazing feeling.”
Seventh-seeded BHS upset No. 2 Elkhorn North during an NSAA Class B elimination game at Tal Anderson Field, 9-8. Coach John Roan's team trailed the two-time defending state champions by four runs going into the seventh inning, but, then, the Bears came back with a two-out, five-run rally. They unseated and eliminated the 18-9 Wolves — who topped them during last Saturday's first round — and advanced onto the semifinals against Gretna East.
“It's always felt a little sweeter when we can beat a team that's so good,” senior catcher Nate Wachter said. “Hats off to them. That's what makes this so much more fun — when you can compete like that.”
Blair fell behind North 3-0 during the third inning, but produced their own run to start the fourth when Kosch singled to centerfield to plate J'Shawn Unger.
Filling in for starter Lucas Matejka, BHS relief pitcher Blaine Rosenbaum threw a scoreless bottom half, setting up the Bears' three-run top of the fifth.
“Everyone was working,” Wachter said. “Hits were falling.”
Carter Saylor led off Blair's march to a 4-3 lead with a single before Rosenbaum walked. Tanner Jacobson walked, too, loading the bases for Wachter, who notched an RBI single, pulling Coach Roan's team within 3-2.
Senior Brady Brown was next, placing a two-run single into right field for the Bears' first lead.
The 4-3 advantage held through the fifth inning, but did not survive the sixth. The Wolves' Tyson Fancher led off with a double before North scored five runs on four hits and a few BHS miscues.
So, with three outs to work with, Blair trailed 8-4 entering the final inning.
Wachter, Brown and Unger reached base consecutively, but a double-play cut into their team's hopes of a comeback. Kosch, however, was next up to the plate with two runners still left on base.
“I was just going up there with confidence,” the junior outfielder said. “The kids in the dugout were telling me, 'Go up there, no regrets. Have no regrets.'”
It was what he needed to hear.
“So, I just went up there and did what my team needed me to do,” Kosch said.
No. 1 on the roster delivered a two-out double into centerfield, just out of the reach of a diving Wolf. The hit scored two Bears, cutting their deficit to two runs.
Hans Sorensen, in his first appearance of the state tourney, hit into an error next before Saylor walked to load the bases. Then, with the season still on the line, both Jakob Gaskill — who claimed the pitching win with his work to end the bottom of the sixth frame — and Jacobson earned bases-loaded walks to tie the game at 8-8.
“Those younger guys really stepped up,” Wachter said, noting Kosch, Sorensen, Saylor and Gaskill. “At the beginning of the season, we kind of struggled finding some consistency in that bottom half of the lineup, but they've come up huge.”
Because of their efforts, the senior catcher stepped into the batter's box with a chance to give his team its second lead of the state elimination game. Wachter hit the ball on the ground and tallied an RBI as Jacobson beat out an Elkhorn North infielder to second base.
Because the BHS runner beat the Wolf to the bag, the Bears led 9-8. Left-handed senior pitcher Dylan Swanson was called upon to hold that lead during bottom of the seventh frame, too.
The Wolves beat the lefty during both teams' state opener, but the BHS standout ultimately earned Tuesday's game-ending strikeout. The final pitch set off a celebration on the field and in the stands behind the Bears' dugout where their fellow students sat.
“That might be the hype-est I've ever seen that team,” Kosch said, cracking a big smile. It was, as he'd put it, “an amazing feeling.”

Bears beat Blue Devils
Before its rematch with Elkhorn North, Blair played sixth-seeded Plattsmouth in an elimination game Monday at Papillion-La Vista South.
“Our mindset was, 'This is not going to be our last game,'” Unger said.
It wasn't as the Bears put together a 6-1 win, their school's first state victory since 2016. They did it with a steady stream of precipitation falling from the sky for the majority of the game.
“It was a little challenging,” Unger said, noting how batting gloves got a little wet and some ground balls were a little tougher to handle. “But, other than that, they had to play in it, too.”
In actuality, BHS just stuck to what it could control during the five-run win.
“We did what we did and hit the ball,” Unger said. “Lots of good situational hitting.”
Down 1-0, the Bears scored their first runs during the third frame. Matejka and Jacobson reached base before Brown ultimately knocked them in for the lead with a double.
Unger singled next before Swanson walked, setting up Kosch, who plated Blair's third run by sacrifice.
Unger later pushed the Bears' lead to 4-1 with a fourth-inning sac fly before Swanson bunted across another score.
Jacobson's fifth-inning RBI single scored Saylor, too. It was the winning pitcher's most-notable offensive contribution.
“It was really all there today,” Jacobson said of his mound work, though. “Lot of fastballs. They were getting a lot of ground balls.”
The senior threw 6 1/3 innings before Rosenbaum stepped on to earn the last two outs.
“We really just wanted to focus on today,” Jacobson said after the game. “Doesn't matter what happened Saturday. Doesn't matter who we play tomorrow.”
All of BHS' attention was on besting the Blue Devils.
“We just really wanted to focus on today,” the pitcher continued. “Working as a team and getting through this one.”

Tuesday at Tal Anderson Field, Omaha
No. 7 Blair 9, No. 2 Elkhorn North 8
BHS (13-12) 0 0 0 1 3 0 5 — 9 9 3
EN (18-9) 0 0 3 0 0 5 0 — 8 7 1
Monday at Papillion-La Vista South
No. 7 Blair 6, No. 6 Plattsmouth 1
BHS (12-12) 0 0 3 0 2 1 0 — 6 6 2
PHS (15-7) 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 1 5 2

Blair Baseball