Justin Myer and Jake Seina were in the mix for playing time from their first day in the Fort Calhoun Legion baseball program on.
The recent high school graduates have been busy every summer since.
“We always had our dry spells. We weren't always the best team, but, I mean, look what it built to,” Myer said Tuesday in West Point. “Us making a run in districts, and on the doorstep of being to a state tournament.”
The Post 348 Pioneers fell one win shy of the Class B Area 3 Tournament title game after a memorable three-game stretch which saw them bounce back from a 10-0 loss to start the tourney. After three-straight wins, coach Brandon Wynn' team played its final game of 2021 on Tuesday, falling 8-6 to Waterloo-Valley.
A 1-1 grind — helped along by a standout pitching performance by the Pioneers' Ty Hallberg — turned into a shootout during the final 1.5 innings of Calhoun's season. Post 348 struck first, scoring three runs during the bottom half of the sixth inning. Zach Faucher and Tristan Fuhrman plated runs before Harrison Schmitt raced home on a passed ball for a 4-1 lead.
Waterloo-Valley didn't lay down, though. It responded with seven runs, scoring its last two on a Fort Calhoun error.
The 8-4 deficit could have been daunting, but the Pioneers weren't done yet.
Dillon Dierks led off the bottom half of the seventh inning with a single before Tylan Conner reached base on an error. Myer stepped in and delivered one more two-RBI double as a Post 348 ballplayer.
Eight-to-6 was as close as the Pioneers would get, though. A strikeout ended their run — an unforgettable one for a team that started the season 6-2, but finished 10-14 after a five-game stay in West Point.
“We were so close as a team,” said Seina, a Mount Marty (S.D.) football recruit. “Like, I love every kid out here and I'm just going to miss them a lot.”
Conner, another recent FCHS grad, was in agreement.
“I can't imagine playing with anyone else,” he said.
The Pioneers weren't always great in 2021, but they delivered a strong finish, whether they were favored coming into the district tournament or not.
“It depends on the heart,” Seina said.
Now, Myer hopes future Post 348 teams can take the next step.
“These younger guys, they get to build off that,” said the Northeastern Junior College (Colo.) baseball commit. “I'm hoping that us seniors left enough momentum to keep pushing through next season.”
Pioneers reach final day of districts
The highest of highs.
That's what the Fort Calhoun Senior Legion baseball team felt Sunday night after staving off Class B Area 3 Tournament elimination for a second-straight game. The Post 348 Pioneers beat Blair on Saturday and won an come-from-behind, eight-inning thriller the next night.
“Probably have a few choice words to describe how I feel,” coach Wynn said after the 3-2 win over his squad's top-seeded tournament host, West Point.
Then, on Monday, the Pioneers took another step forward, securing their Tuesday-night slot in West Point with an 8-7 victory over Arlington.
Post 348 fell behind 6-2 through 2.5 innings, but battled back and handed the Eagles their first and only tournament loss. Wynn's team did it with a four-run fourth inning, flipping a 6-4 deficit into an 8-6 lead.
“The energy change was crazy,” Faucher said. “When we got down, we weren't as energized. But once we started getting those runs in, it was like we were a whole different team.”
The comeback started with Austin Welchert plating two Calhoun runs during the third inning. He hit a dribbler between first and second base that somehow scored both Faucher and Fuhrman.
Then, during the fourth frame, the Pioneers got on a roll. Conner and Myer hit back-to-back RBI singles before Schmitt and Faucher sacrificed to give coach Wynn's squad a two-run advantage.
“I knew I had a job to do,” Faucher said.
Arlington scored one run during the fifth inning, but couldn't tie or overtake Post 348 with anymore against pitcher Tanner Jacobson, who notched the win in relief of Seina. The young right-hander, a Junior Legion standout, threw 5 2/3 innings of three-run ball.
“Once we played the easy baseball that we know, as a team, we can do, it all comes together,” Jacobson said. “And it looks like we did in the end.”
One Eagle reached base during the final inning as the Pioneers protected their one-run lead, but the winning pitcher stayed calm.
“I try to keep a clear head when I'm up there,” he said.
But before they earned their place in the final-three, the Pioneers notched a 3-2 win they'll never forget. Welchert provided the walk-off hit that scored Faucher on Sunday night, but that was just the crescendo. So much more built to the moment against West Point.
“Can't tell you how proud I am of Justin Myer,” Wynn said.
The Post 348 standout hadn't pitched in a month due to injury, but he started Sunday with the Pioneers' season on the line, striking out eight batters.
“To come back from an injury, pitching for the first time in almost a month, and go six innings, allowing only two runs on 108 pitches, is absolutely awesome,” Wynn said.
Myer's effort kept Calhoun within striking distance. The lineup struggled at the plate, but finally scored its first run during the fifth inning. Conner's single scored Hallberg to pull the Pioneers within 2-1 — a score that stuck until the bottom of the seventh.
Seina led off that final frame, reaching base when his knock hit off the West Point pitcher's glove. The baserunner stole second base and reached third before taking off for home with Schmitt in the box with two outs.
In a play Wynn called “big time,” Seina's steal attempt resulted in a tie ballgame, forcing the extra eighth inning. Hallberg, the relief pitcher, threw through a scoreless top half before Welchert plated Faucher for the game winner.
“Yeah, I'll remember that for a long time,” Conner said.
It was a memorable Sunday-night finish during what turned into a memorable district run.
“Couldn't be more proud of the guys,” Wynn said at the time, unaware of what his team was still yet to accomplish in West Point.