B&C Steel Junior 36ers head to state after 3-2 win
     2013-07-18      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Photo by Philip Eckerberg/for the Citizen - B & C Steel Junior 36er, first baseman Esai Hernandez is a step ahead of Westco runner Matthew Mickey and onto the next out during a recent match up against the Westco Express. The 36ers qualified for the Post 36 program's first Class B Junior State Tournament after Tuesday’s 3-2 win against Chadron. 
Pitching efforts power Gering to sweep, into state tournament

When concerning the Gering B&C Steel Post 36 Junior American Legion baseball team, opponents have been getting their dose of all three key elements.

And with all three of their pitchers throwing solid, complete-game efforts, Gering B&C Steel completed its three-game sweep through the Class B Area 7 Tournament with a 3-2 win over Chadron on Tuesday night in Sidney.

The Junior 36ers, winners of 16 of their last 21 games, nine of 10 and seven straight, thus qualified for the Post 36 program's first Class B Junior State Tournament -- which begins Saturday in Elkhorn -- since 2009.

"We're very excited to be going to Elkhorn this weekend, and it's just a great opportunity for our players and the program in itself, to have this opportunity to represent Gering down at the state tournament," Gering B&C Steel coach Patrick O'Boyle said Tuesday night.

After starting out the season with five straight losses and standing 3-7 after 10 games, the Junior 36ers have bought into the philosophy of playing consistent baseball as taught by O'Boyle and his assistant, fellow Gering Legion veteran Grant Rimington.

"We've been playing very good baseball in the past month or so, and I would say consistency and just teamwork all together," O'Boyle said of the Junior 36ers' keys to achieving their success.
"Every day, Grant and I have preached consistency and playing together as a team for a complete game. The kids have really bought into what we are trying to do, and I think that has been the factor down the stretch."

Gering's pitching during the tournament was solid from the first inning of B&C Steel's 3-2 comeback win Saturday over Ogallala until the final out of Tuesday's win, the Junior 36ers' second over Chadron of the tournament after they won Sunday's semifinal, 7-5.
Brent Barge scattered seven hits and had seven strikeouts with three walks in getting the complete-game victory against Ogallala, while Logan Conn held Chadron off on Sunday after scattering nine hits and five runs with four strikeouts and walks apiece.

Conner Pickett got the call to the mound for the championship game and, while holding Chadron to four hits, worked with his defense to get the Junior 36ers out of five base-runner jams.

In the top of the seventh, Chadron loaded the bases on a walk and two hit batsmen by Pickett with two outs. Jake Bargen had a 3-1 count against Pickett but lined out to Austin Hoffman in left field to end the game.

"We got phenomenal pitching from all three of our pitchers," O'Boyle said. "Brent, Logan and Conner all threw very well this week, they threw a lot of strikes and our defense played pretty well behind them. If we get that rolling down at the state tournament, we should do pretty well."


Gering B&C Steel 3, Chadron 2

Pickett got consistent offensive support from Hoffman and Austin Reynolds. Hoffman gained base twice on fielder's choice plays, and he turned both opportunities into runs Tuesday night -- including the game and area tournament winner.

"Austin is definitely playing good baseball right now," O'Boyle said. "He's giving us good at-bats and he's also playing very good left-field for us right now."

Gering B&C Steel scored the game's first run in the bottom of the second inning when Hoffman, who had gained base on a fielder's choice, later scored on a wild pitch.

Chadron tied the score in the top of the fourth, with Devin Julius turned his leadoff single into a run after he scored on Xavier Going's groundout.

The Junior 36ers regained the lead at 2-1 when Esai Hernandez, who led off the fourth with a single, scored on a double-steal attempt on which he scored but Hoffman was called out at second.

Gering B&C Steel had runners at second and third with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning but was unable to get either home.
Chadron took advantage by retying the game at 2-all in the top of the sixth when Bargen, who led off the inning with a single, scored on a sacrifice fly.

The Junior 36ers, however, did not let the tie set for long. After Hoffman gained base on his second fielder's choice of the night, he advanced to third on Trace Fulk's single. Nic Bibb brought home the winning run in Hoffman to give Gering B&C Steel the lead for good.
"Our defense really proved key at the end," O'Boyle said. "We did miss a couple opportunities earlier in the game with some runners left in scoring position. Chadron did a nice job of locking down their defense.

"They were going to fight to the very end, but our kids are too though. They're tough-minded kids and they're going to battle as well."

Reynolds was the lone Gering batter with two hits in the game.

Gering B&C Steel 3, Ogallala 2

That philosophy of playing consistently and finishing a game was needed for the Junior 36ers in their first game, which they trailed Ogallala 2-1 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning.
Hoffman went 3-for-3 at the plate, led off the inning with a hard single to shortstop. Hoffman then advanced to second when Fulk singled to center field.

A fielder's choice by Quentin Timblin put Hoffman at third, but an error at short allowed Hoffman to tie the game and put Timblin at second. Barge singled to right, and Timblin scored the game-winner on the throw home.

Gering B&C Steel 7, Chadron 5

Three first-inning runs helped set the pace for the Junior 36ers in their semifinal win over Chadron on Sunday. In the second inning, Gering B&C Steel scored on a steal of home by Brenden Brester.
Reynolds had a hot bat for Gering B&C Steel. He went 3-for-4, drove in one and scored one run. He singled in the first, third and sixth innings. Hoffman was 2-for-3 and Brester had a double.


State awaits

Gering B&C Steel opens Class B Junior State Tournament play on Saturday at 4 p.m. Mountain Time against the Area 4 winner. That area tournament in York was to finish Wednesday, with undefeated Seward playing Pleasant Dale for the second time and a third meeting if necessary.

Seward won the teams' semifinal game, 4-0 on Monday.
The winner will play the victor between Mount Michael Benedictine and Area 5 champ at 7 p.m. Sunday; the losers of those two first-round matchups will meet in elimination play at 1 p.m. The state tournament continues through Wednesday.

Before leaving for Elkhorn on Friday, O'Boyle said the Junior 36ers will stay the course in preparations.

"We'll just keep staying with the same thing we've been doing all year, we're going to keep lifting in the morning and practicing right after that. We'll keep the kids in a routine so they feel comfortable with what's going on.

"Down at state, hopefully we will keep playing the way we've been doing, get guys on base and put pressure on the other team by stealing bases, bunting them over and getting RBIs."

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