Gering PVC Seniors Area Champions - Again! - 36ers headed to 3rd straight state tourney
     2012-07-27      By Terry Gaston   
Defense wins championships.
It’s an adage well-renowned in the athletic world but one that rarely applies to baseball.

The Gering Platte Valley Companies Post 36 Seniors put their best gloves on throughout the Class B, Area 7 Tournament and earned the Senior team’s third straight trip into the Class B State Tournament.

First with an inning-ending double play in the first inning, and with two hard rundowns by Grant Rimington beyond the infield track and Nate Marquez on the outfield track to finish the game, the Senior 36ers overcame a hitting deficit to Alliance Post 7 and rode Josh Burgener’s four runs batted in to a 6-1 victory.

For seven of the players, the subsequent trip to Wahoo – and the state tourney, which begins Saturday – is their fourth consecutive state trip, including their berth in the junior state tournament in 2009.

“Overall our guys stepped it up and played great baseball,” said first-year Seniors head coach Doug Jones, who led the ’09 Juniors to state and was the Seniors’ assistant the past two years.

And for this group of players, 10 of whom have played together for most of the past 10 years, the zero under the E column looks as pretty as it would under the opponents’ run or hit category.

“It was a great all-around effort by everyone,” said Danny O’Boyle, who pitched the complete-game victory despite allowing 10 hits, including a 3-for-3, RBI-double effort to Darin Bottger.

“Alliance hit the ball well, but we were able to work out of some jams, and I credit our defense,” added O’Boyle, who struck out four Spartans. “They stood behind me and we were able to get me out of some tight spots.”

Alliance, which outhit Gering 10-6, got a one-out single by Grant Freeze in the first inning. But Jones and the Gering defense dug in for the game’s first big defensive play.

Second baseman Reggie Reyes pulled in Andy Gomez’s ground ball, tossed it to second base and shortstop Grant Rimington to put out Freeze, and Rimington hit first baseman Colin Chatterton with a throw on a rope to end the Spartans’ early threat.

“That was almost a tailor-made play,” Jones said of the double play. “We couldn’t have scripted that any better.”

Gering responded in the bottom of the first when Rimington drew a one-out walk off Alliance hurler Jayden Holman and a two-out Spartans error allowed Zach Smith to gain base with Burgener up next, ready to attack.

Burgener punched Holman’s pitch off the left-center field wall to plate Rimington and Smith for the Senior 36ers’ early 2-0 lead.

The Spartans gained one run back in the fourth after Gomez scored following a leadoff double. But Alliance loaded the bases on one of O’Boyle two walks – both of which were to Kyle Sanders – with a chance to tie the score or even take the lead.

But with Burgener making the calls behind the plate, O’Boyle forced Rodrigo Ybarra to ground out to Rimington to leave the bags full.

“Josh called every pitch and blocked a lot of pitches in the dirt to keep me out of trouble,” O’Boyle said.

But Jones gave his pitcher credit as well. “He did a great job on the mound and was able to work out of some big jams.”

Gering’s one-run lead stood pat until the Senior 36ers, who had one strong late-inning rally in each of their three area victories, packaged a four-run rally in the fifth to take command on the scoreboard.

Marquez drew a leadoff walk and stole second on a dropped ball, and then he tagged his way to third on Rimington’s deep fly-out to right. O’Boyle drew a walk off Holman, and the Spartans decided to intentionally load the bases with Smith – and his four home runs on the season – at the plate.

But Burgener was ready to bring some more teammates home and made Alliance pay for its decision, driving Holman’s 2-and-2 pitch to center field to bring in Marquez and O’Boyle.

Smith, who advanced to third on Burgener’s hit, scored on Colin Chatterton’s sacrifice fly to right, and Reyes dropped a bloop single into short center to score Burgener from third.

After that, O’Boyle – whom Jones said was struggling a little following the fourth inning – allowed two singles in the sixth but left the Alliance runners stranded in scoring position.

The Spartans started the seventh with singles by Andrew Garza and Freeze, who was 2-for-3, but three fly-outs followed in giving Gering (26-19) the victory. After Marquez pulled in the first out in center, Rimington ran into the outfield grass and behind third baseman Smith to make the second out.

Then after Holman drove O’Boyle’s final pitch to the warning track, Marquez made a lay-out catch to seal the Senior 36ers’ victory.

“That diving catch by Nate was an amazing play and a perfect way to end it,” Jones said.

Rimington matched Burgener’s 2-for-3 effort with a double and one run scored. Burgener’s four-RBI effort included a double, and Chatterton had a leadoff double in the fourth inning.

“Josh’s four RBI were a big key for us, and he is a great leader behind the plate,” Jones said of Burgener, who will join brother and Gering Legion alumnus Jeremy at York College this fall. “He calls all the pitches and he is going to be tough to replace.”

That is, after the state tournament, Burgener – along with Chatterton, Seth Holthus, Marquez, O’Boyle, Reyes and Smith, all four-time state trip participants – will all be missed when they take off the Gering Post 36 uniform for the final time in the next coming week, which they hope will be next Wednesday after a state title victory or beyond.

For the moment, however, when the Senior 36ers were handed their Area 7 Champions plaque, O’Boyle leaned up to kiss the hardware.

“I’ve always wanted to do that, and I wanted to be the first one,” he said. “Our first goal is accomplished. But we’re not done yet.”

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