Zephyrs swept out of tough tourney: Westco Twin Cities’ opponents advance in Area 7 Tournament
     2014-07-24      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Photo by Sheila Weber/Sheila Weber Photography - Andy Van Amburg, member of the Zephyrs team, attempts to get Jared Chick of Roosevelt out during the Kelley Bean Classic held on June 29. 
Westco Twin Cities senior American Legion baseball coach Mark Moran had said before the Area A-7 Tournament at North Plate that the Zephyrs’ No. 1 seed in the five-team field was a nice reward for their regular-season performance, but it meant nothing in the very balanced area bracket.

Sadly for the Zephyrs, too many defensive mistakes – especially late in the nine-inning games – proved too costly for Westco Twin Cities, and the Z’s were beaten by the No. 3 and 4 seeds and had their season end with a 33-20 record.

In its tournament-opening game Saturday at Bill Wood Field, Westco Twin Cities battled No. 4 seed Kearney Runza to a deadlock through eight innings before Kearney scored twice in the top of the ninth inning to score a 6-4 victory.

The loss relegated the Zephyrs to the elimination bracket, where on Sunday they played nip and tuck against No. 3 seed Hastings Five Points Bank through five innings.

However, three errors in the seventh and eighth innings, and six mishaps in all opened the door for Hastings to break the game open and roll to a 14-5 win in the Zephyrs’ season finale.

“We had a couple errors in the seventh inning that got them a three-run lead, which was hard to overcome,” Moran said. “We throw a pick-off attempt away and missed a fly ball, and that allowed them to get the three runs.”

Westco Twin Cities trailed 2-0 after two innings and then scored three times in the third on three hits to take the lead.

Eric Moreno, making his first plate appearance of the season, led off the inning with a single and came around to score the first run on a Jackson Hinze single. Traceten Halley then scored Tristan Donelson before Hinze scored on a wild pitch, giving the Zephyrs a 3-2 lead.

Westco Twin Cities went up 4-2 when Jacob Schmid scored Trevor Garcia with a double. Hastings came back with three runs in the fifth on just two hits for a 5-4 lead, but the Zephyrs plated one run in the bottom of the inning.

After Hastings scored one run in the eighth inning, it finished with a five-run rally in the ninth inning to seal its victory.

“The two extra innings are way more than anybody can understand,” Moran said. “On the other hand, the other teams haven’t been playing nine-inning games, so that’s no excuse.”

Offensively, Hastings held a 14-8 advantage in base hits. Schmid had the only extra-base hit, a double. Schmid led the team at the plate, going 2-for-4.

Six other Zephyrs finished with one hit, including Moreno, who had been sidelined with an elbow injury that he suffered while playing for Lamar Community College at the Region IX baseball tournament in early May.

In the Zephyrs’ two-run loss to Kearney, Beau Lofink went the complete nine innings for Westco Twin Cities, scattering 15 hits and allowing six runs. He struck out one and walked two while facing just 43 batters over nine innings.

Westco Twin Cities actually had control of the contest for much of the game, taking a 2-0 lead after two innings. The Zephyrs started the second with a single by Lofink and a double by Garcia. Both came in to score on a fielder’s choice and a groundout for the quick lead.

Kearney came back to tie the game at 2-each with two runs in the third only to watch Westco Twin Cities come back with a single run in the bottom of the frame. Ty Benson led off with a bunt single, then he was sacrificed to third base and scored on a steal home for a 3-2 lead.

Kearney came back to tie the game with a single run in the fifth and took a 4-3 lead with a run in the eighth.

With their backs against the wall, the Zephyrs tied the game at 4-apiece with a run in the bottom of the eighth as Hinze, Halley and Lofink all had singles to load the bases. The Zephyrs, however, scored just one run as Hinze scored on a fielder’s choice.
Kearney Runza went ahead 6-4 with two runs in the ninth on two singles and two sacrifices to win the game.

Westco Twin Cities was out-hit 15-6 in the contest. Lofink led the team with a 2-for-4 game with a run scored. Garcia had the Zephyrs’ only extra base hit.

After Hastings eliminated North Platte 9-6 on Monday night – a win that avenged a 6-5, first-round loss to the host First Nationals on Friday – Hastings and unbeaten Kearney found themselves in Tuesday night’s championship round.

Regardless of the area finals outcome, both teams will play in Class A state tournaments – the winner in the National Division tournament at Grand Island and the loser in the American Division tourney at Omaha South.

“You have to beat three really good teams, you have to play really good defense and get some timely hits, and we just couldn’t do that,” Moran said.

Moran said that injuries, especially to pitchers Moreno and Caleb Geary, proved too detrimental for a team that began the season with such high hopes with a deep pitching rotation.

The Zephyrs, who after amassing a 13-game winning streak were 28-10 on the season, limped through July by winning just five of their last 15 games – including a 1-5 drought to end the season

“Despite all the injuries, I think it was a very good season for these guys,” Moran said. “They hung in there and battled and put up a solid regular-season record.

“I’m disappointed that we lost five of our last six. It was kind of a season of what if. If we had all the guys healthy all year, it might have been different. But those guys went out (and played the best they could), and they did a great job of that.”

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