The Blair Junior Legion baseball season ended Tuesday during the Class B State Tournament in Waverly.
The Post 154 Bears went 24-7, finishing as one of the final four teams left standing. Coach Howie Brewer said the campaign was the most fun he's had on a baseball field in his life.
“We just have a great group of guys,” the coach said Monday after Blair's elimination game win over Arlington. “I've throughly loved coaching them all season long.”
Though the Bears went 2-2 at state and fell short of the their ultimate goal, a state title, the lineup left a strong impression on the coach.
“We have a ton of guys on this team that have the ability to be great and they want to be great,” Brewer said.
Beatrice just got in the way. It beat Blair 5-2, cutting the Bears' state run a day shy of the championship rounds on Wednesday.
Beatrice earned a 2-0 lead early before Post 154 pulled even during a two-run third frame. Eli Morgan and Ethan Baessler reached base before Greyson Kay hit into an error, allowing the pair of baserunners to score.
The Bears' foe scored the go-ahead runs during the fourth frame and held off coach AJ Bilslend's squad from there. Hayden Berg, Morgan and Hunter Travis his seventh-innings singles, but Blair was unable to cut into Beatrice's lead in its final opportunity to do so.
A third out ended the Bears' state run, but not before a 2-1 start.
Facing elimination the first time, Post 154 scored three first-inning runs against Arlington on Monday and won 4-1. The Eagles brought the tying run to the plate during the seventh inning, but Kaden Sears fielded a groundball and stepped on third base for the third out before any damage was done.
“Our guys, all season, have done a good job of picking each other up, one after another,” Brewer said.
Against Post 71, it was Travis who stepped up. After starting pitcher Lee Chavez-Lara held Arlington to just one run over 6 2/3 innings and 100-plus pitches — his limit for the day — the relief pitcher came in from the outfield and finished out the high-pressure game.
“Hunter Travis, Travie, wanted the ball,” Brewer said. “He said it before that last inning.”
The hurler's work preserved the win for Chavez-Lara.
“Lee was phenomenal as he always is,” Brewer said. “He's been fantastic all year. Every time he's been asked.”
The winning pitcher also notched two RBIs against the Eagles. After Joe Rodriguez's single plated the Bears' first run of the first inning, Chavez-Lara plated two more with another.
Arlington's Blaine Vogt hit his own RBI-single during the top half of the second inning, but Post 71 wouldn't get any closer to their fellow Washington County squad. Morgan's sixth-inning sacrifice provided the final run differential as Blair moved to 2-1 at the state tournament in Waverly.
Bears drop game to Pierce
A day earlier, the Blair Juniors fell to 1-1 at the state tournament with Sunday's second-round loss to Pierce.
The Bears — who beat Chadron in the first round — fell behind 5-0 during the top of the third inning and were unable to get back within five runs, managing just three hits for the game. Pierce, meanwhile, notched 18 hits.
Sears notched three strikeouts on the mound, but the opposition's Jace Mohr struck out 13 in a winning effort.
The loss was just the Bears' sixth of the season and their first since June 25th. They'd won 11 in a row and, ultimately, finished 24-7 overall.