Pender finishes as Class C runner-up
ALBION – Pender had defending champion David City right where it wanted when it had chances to take the lead in the fifth and sixth innings.
“We wanted to hang around long enough to get them nervous, and I think we were able to do that,” Pender coach Clay Haymart said.
But Pender couldn’t capitalize.
When given its chance, however, David City did. It scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to break a tie to repeat as the Class C Seniors champions 10-6 over Pender in the title game Wednesday night here at Leon Nelson Memorial Field.
“Give credit to Pender again,” David City coach Matt Croghan said. “They gave it to us all. They might have been short on pitching, but it sure didn’t look like it.”
Before that game Wednesday, Pender held off a furious Wilber comeback 9-7 to advance to the winner-take-all championship. The results meant that Pender was the runner-up in both Class C Juniors and Seniors this season.
“We spent a lot of energy beating Wilber, but we came back and fought hard,” Haymart said. “If a throw goes another way or a ball bounces another way, we could be on a completely different end of it.”
Pender played error-free ball defensively through five innings in the championship game. That changed quickly in the sixth, and it changed the game.
After Jack Jakub’s third hit of the game, a leadoff single, Matt Nadrchal hit a short grounder in front of home plate. The throw from Pender’s catcher was off the mark, and then the right fielder’s throw to catcher to try to get Jakub out at the plate was wide, putting Nadrchal at third.
On the next play, a grounder in the infield resulted in a play at the plate, but the throw was off again, allowing a run to score and Andy Lyons to reach third base. Tyler Vavrina followed with a RBI single, and a sacrifice groundout later scored Vavrina.
That was more than enough cushion for David City.
Pender got two on with one out in the sixth, but for the second-straight inning, it couldn’t push runs across as consecutive flyouts ended the game.
Croghan, who took over this year for longtime coach Steve Rerucha, was quick in deflecting credit for the team’s title run.
“I give all the credit to the kids,” he said. “Steve was a great mentor to me. He laid the groundwork, for sure, for almost 20 years, and I just carried the torch. That’s all I did.”
Jakub had a huge game for David City. He earned the win in relief, entering after starter Vavrina allowed the first five Pender batters to reach in the fifth. Jakub threw three innings of one-hit shutout relief. Batting eighth, he went 3 for 3 with three RBIs and two runs scored. Vavrina nearly matched Jakub at the plate, going 3 for 3 with two RBIs and one run scored.
For Pender, No. 9 batter Jacob Zuhlke reached all four times, including two singles, a walk and an error. Aaron Ras went 2 for 3 and walked twice, including an intentional walk in the fifth.
Devin Hegge took the loss for Pender, going the rest of the way after Eric Schopke gave up six runs in 2!-E innings. Each allowed five hits.
“They competed, and they gave us an opportunity,” Haymart said of his team.
The momentum shifted to both teams during a crazy top of the fifth.
First, Pender loaded the bases with no outs, then got a Lucas Vogt RBI single, and Nick Ronnfeldt drew a bases-loaded walk to put Pender within one.
Then David City nearly got out of the inning with the lead.
Jordan Springer — who earned a pinch-hit walk earlier — was thrown out trying to score on a passed ball. Moments later, Hegge hit into a fielder’s choice that resulted in Vogt getting tagged out at home.
Then Pender snatched the momentum back on the base paths.
Hegge took off early from first to second, caught the attention of pitcher Jakub, and induced a pickle.
During that, Ronnfeldt scampered home, and on the throw home, Hegge stole second. A David City error and an intentional walk loaded the bases, but a flyout kept it tied.
“That’s one of those that’s in our repertoire when we’re down to our last strike of an inning,” Haymart said. “It’s designed to get a balk, but this worked just as well, thankfully.”
Haymart said he could tell in warmups between games that the first game drained his squad. That showed in the early going, when David City batted 10 in a five-run second inning.
“We were just spent. We were tired,” he said. “I’ve been in this position as a player, and I’ve been in this position as a coach, and it really drains you, that first game, because you have to give your all so that you’re not eliminated.”
Pender 000 330 0 – 6 9 3
David City 051 004 X – 10 10 4
WP: Jack Jakub. LP: Devin Hegge. SB: (PEN) Nick Ronnfeldt, Hegge; (DC) Kyle Petree 2, Kyle Napier, Jakub. SAC: (DC) Andy Lyons, Nolan Hartman.
Pender 9, Wilber 7
Pender didn’t advance to the championship without some drama.
Wilber nearly came back after Pender had a 9-3 lead entering the bottom of the seventh inning, needing back-to-back strikeouts by Ras with the potential tying run standing at first base to end the game.
It all started on a botched grounder to begin the inning. Pitcher Vogt walked the next two batters, prompting Haymart to bring in Ras. A passed ball scored the first run, and then another walk loaded the bases again. Another Wilber run scored on a sacrifice groundout, before yet another walk loaded the bases for the third time.
Coltin Rezabek delivered Wilber’s third hit of the game, a two-run single into shallow right field to represent the tying run at first base. Ras finally settled down, working the inside corner for consecutive strikeouts to stop the rally short.
Layne Heese had a no-hitter until a single with one out in the fifth, getting the win after allowing just two hits and three runs, two earned, on 62 pitches in 4@-E innings. Vogt threw 1!-E innings of no-hit relief, but he walked three batters and struck out two. Ras got the save despite walking two and giving up one run on one hit.
Before that, Pender was cruising, scoring four runs on three hits, including a RBI single by Brady Oliver and a run-scoring double by Heese, in the fourth inning for a 5-1 lead. That came after Pender left five runners on base in the first two innings.
Oliver was 3 for 3, walked, was hit by a pitch, had two RBIs and two runs scored. Ras was 2 for 2 with two runs scored and was intentionally walked three times. Vogt was 2 for 3 with a walk, RBI and run scored.
Pender 001 422 0 – 9 10 2
Wilber 010 020 4 – 7 3 2
WP: Layne Heese. LP: Preston Lee. SV: Aaron Ras. 2B: (PEN) Hunter Ferguson, Heese, Nick Ronnfeldt. SB: (PEN) Ras, Lucas Vogt, Jared Tyrell 2, Jordan Springer; (WIL) Tanner Sand. SAC: (PEN) Ferguson, Heese; (WIL) Josh Kalkwarf.