HASTINGS — Kearney Post 52 needed to win one game Tuesday night in the two-game championship series of the Area 7 Tournament to advance to the American Legion Class A Junior State Tournament.
Instead, Post 52’s season came to an end after two losses, 4-3, 6-0, to Hastings at Duncan Field in Hastings.
“Hats off to them. They had to beat us twice, and they did,” Post 52 coach Matt Connot said. “It’s not an easy task to do that, and it’s a monkey off their back, I’m sure.”
Post 52 fell behind immediately in the second contest Tuesday. Hastings, who served as the visiting team in Game 2, played small ball and capitalized on three Kearney errors to score three runs in the first inning.
A run scored on a Pierce McVicker sacrifice fly in the third inning to increase Hastings’ lead to 4-0.
Hastings starter Tristan Richman ran into trouble in the fifth inning. After retiring the first batter, he issued back-to-back walks. It was Post 52’s best chance at scoring, but a fly out and a pop out in foul territory led to no base runners crossing home plate.
While Post 52’s offense struggled, Hastings continued to tack on. Kearney center fielder Cale Conrad misread a fly ball in the sixth inning, which resulted in the first of two runs for Hastings in the sixth inning.
Kearney’s offense tallied three hits while its defense committed five errors in Game 2.
“Everything that could’ve gone wrong that first inning did,” Connot said. “It wasn’t necessarily one bad play or one bad pitch or anything like that. It was just a lot of little things. We didn’t pick up a bunt.
“That set the tone for the game. If we could’ve scratched across one run in the bottom of the inning, I think that might have changed the mind-set of our team a bit.”
After two straight walks to begin the second inning, Alex Schall poked a one-run single into right-center field to give Post 52 the early advantage in the first game. Three pitches later, Collin Fruhling scored on a pass ball to add to Post 52’s lead.
With two outs in the bottom of the second, Hastings evened the score on a bloop single to right field by Kaden Evans.
Hastings’ Trevor Sullivan, who courtesy ran for pitcher Braden Kalvelage, stole home on a double steal with two outs for the go-ahead run in the third inning.
In the sixth, Hastings added an insurance run on Beau Dreher’s infield single.
Hastings let a foul ball drop between three players with one out in the seventh inning, which benefited Post 52.
Post 52’s Brayden Andersen capitalized on the second chance, as he drove the next pitch he saw to right field for an RBI. Kearney failed to even the score, though, hitting into a double play to end the comeback attempt.
“They did a nice job as the ball was always around the zone,” Connot said. “They didn’t give us a lot of free bases. A little bit softer for velocity, and our guys were just putting the ball in the air. A lot of easy outs for them. We can’t do that.”