Zephyrs win pair of games in rain-shortened NTC Tournament Express earn first victory after three losses; weather washes out pair of weekend contests
     2015-05-28      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
When spring and summer sports teams like those that play American Legion baseball are on a busy schedule anyway, the first few weeks of their seasons are especially crucial.

The Westco Twin Cities Zephyrs rebounded from their season-opening pair of losses on May 16 to North Platte by scoring two wins Sunday in their Nebraska Transport Company Tournament at Cleveland Field.
Getting the games in, and being prepared for what ended up was the action canceled Monday because of Sunday night’s thunderstorms, proved worthy for the Zephyrs and their 25th-year head coach Mark Moran.

In Sunday’s opener, Westco Twin Cities scored a 9-3 victory that goes down as Moran’s 800th in his long career at the Zephyrs’ helm.
The Z’s then completed action in the shortened tourney by scoring a 6-4 win over the Chappell-based Buckley Bombers. Buckley had edged Alliance 6-5 in the second game of the day.

In contrast to the Zephyrs’ season-opening action, 13-4 and 13-1 losses to North Platte, Moran could easily summarize his team’s performance Sunday: Better.

“We pitched better, we had better at-bats and we were more consistent in the field,” Moran said. “We’re making a little progress.”
The Zephyrs were scheduled to open play Sunday against Wheatland, Wyo., but with the weather threatening, Moran said he called the Wheatland coach to cancel what he felt might be a wasted trip.

“I called them early Sunday morning and said to not come, because at that point we didn’t know if we’d get in any games at all,” Moran said.

Once the Zephyrs got started against Alliance, they rode the success of Ty Benson both on the pitcher’s mound and at the plate to nail down their first win of the season.

Benson had two extra-base hits for Westco Zephyrs 18U. He tripled in the first inning, doubled in the fifth inning and singled in the sixth inning.

In pitching two innings of relief, Benson held Alliance hitless, allowed no earned runs, walked none and struck out five.
Westco Twin Cities beat Alliance thanks to seven hits, including four extra base hits.

The game was back-and-forth heading into the fifth, with five lead changes.
The Zephyrs pulled out the win thanks to a strong fifth inning. A groundout by Cooper Buchhammer scored Benson and gave Westco Twin Cities the lead for good.

Jason Amateis got the pitching win for the Zephyrs. He allowed three runs over five innings. Amateis struck out six, walked four and gave up seven hits.

Benson, Robbie Cantril and Trevor Garcia helped lead Westco Twin Cities. They combined for four hits and five RBI.
In the bottom of the first, the Zephyrs grabbed the early lead, 2-0. A triple by Benson, plating Jackson Hinze started off the inning. More runs came home for Westco Twin Cities when Benson scored on a groundout by Buchhammer.

The Z’s tacked on another four runs in the sixth. The inning looked promising, as Benson singled, scoring Evan Hughes to start. That was followed up by Cantril’s double, bringing home Garcia, Benson and Amateis.

Against the Buckley Bombers, Westco Twin Cities grabbed the lead after a strong fourth inning. The Zephyrs scored on an RBI single by Buchhammer off Chance Dunker, plating Hinze.
Garcia got on base three times in the game for Westco Twin Cities and he singled in the sixth inning.

Evan Hughes got the win for the Zephyrs. He allowed four runs over six innings. Hughes struck out three, walked one and gave up seven hits.

The top of the first saw Buckley take an early 1-0 lead. Westco Twin Cities quickly matched the Bombers’ strong inning with a two-run inning of its own in the first.
The Zephyrs scored on a sacrifice fly by Benson and an RBI single by Cantril.

Westco Twin Cities scored one run in the second on a groundout by Hinze.
After pushing across one run in the top of the fifth, Buckley faced just a 5-4 deficit. An error set off the Bombers’ rally, but Hughes got a groundout to end the threat.

Express down Alliance in shortened tourney

The Alliance Juniors Tournament met the same fate as the NTC Tournament, getting shortened to one day.

The Westco Twin Cities Express – which also had been swept in their season-opening action, May 16 at North Platte, 14-4 and 10-6 – opened play Saturday with a 9-4 victory over host Alliance.
The Express then suffered a 10-9 loss to Ogallala, which outhit Westco Twin Cities 12-9 in the six-inning contest.

In defeating Alliance, the Express held a 6-5 advantage in hits and erased a 4-1 deficit with five runs in the fourth inning and three more in the fifth and final frame.

“We showed a lot of progress as far as our attitude was way better,” Express Coach Mike Jones said. “Being more aggressive at the plate was a big improvement for us, and we really started looking to hit and making strides in that category was really big for us.”
Westco Twin Cities grabbed the lead after a strong fourth inning. A two-run error scored Max Mason and Brady Sindt and gave the Express the lead for good.

Paul Panduro led Westco Twin Cities’ offensive threat, scoring two runs and with one RBI. Braden Lofink had a 2-for-3 game with one walk and one RBI.
Gunnar Buchhammer got the pitching victory. He allowed four runs over four innings, striking out eight and walking four while giving up three hits.

Westco Twin Cities built upon its 6-4 lead with three runs in the fifth. An error scored Panduro for the inning’s first run. That was followed up by Sindt’s single, bringing home Mason.
“Our pitching was good. Gunnar Buchhammer was good, Braden Lofink was good, and the guys coming out of the bullpen were good,” Jones said.
“We still made some mistakes defensively behind the guys, but that’s going to come around as soon as we get more time on the field. We’re going to get better defensively.”

Against Ogallala, Mason led the Express’s offensive threat by drawing three walks and getting on base four times in the game. He scored three runs and had one RBI with a double in the second inning.
Buchhammer was strong offensively by going 2-for-3 at the plate with one walk, three RBI and one run scored. Schroeder was 2-for-2 at the plate with a walk, and Carlos Felix was 2-for-4 with one RBI.
The top of the first inning had the Express take an early 2-0 lead. Buchhammer singled to score Mason and Braden Lofink, Westco’s starting pitcher.

After a quick strike from Westco Twin Cities with a run in the top of the second, Ogallala responded with a run of its own in closing the Express lead to 3-1.
The Express brought home one run in the third inning, and increased their lead to 5-2 in the fourth.

In the third, Westco Twin Cities scored on an RBI single by Schroeder, bringing home Buchhammer.
Ogallala quickly posted a three-run inning in the fourth to knot the game at 5-all. The Express put together a four-run rally in the fifth to build a 9-5 advantage, only to have Ogallala respond with three runs in the bottom of the frame to set up its sixth-inning, game-winning rally.

Panduro was the game’s losing pitcher after he took over for Lofink. However, Panduro allowed Ogallala’s tying and winning runs after he walked one and had a strikeout.
Lofink allowed eight runs, four earned, with three walks and four strikeouts.

Lots of action this week

With the weather looking better this week and into next, both the Zephyrs and Express look to get in their loaded schedules of action.
Both teams were to play a game each at Torrington on Wednesday, and the Zephyrs will play perennially strong Cheyenne Post 6 today (Thursday) in a 6 p.m., nine-inning game at Cleveland Field.
“We’ll have our hands full with those guys,” Moran said of the Sixers. “They’re one of the best teams we play every summer, so it will be a big challenge for us.”

The Z’s then will then head to Colorado for a pair of weekend doubleheaders. On Saturday, the Zephyrs will play a twin bill at Greeley starting at 11 a.m., and then Sunday they will be at Fort Morgan for a pair starting at 5 p.m.

The Express will play at Bridgeport today in a doubleheader beginning at 5 p.m.

The Express will play host to its NTC Juniors Tourney on Saturday and Sunday at Cleveland Field. They will play Chadron on Saturday at 10 a.m. and Alliance at 8 p.m. On Sunday, Westco Twin Cities opens against D’Evelyn, Colo., at 9:30 a.m. and wraps up action against Torrington at 7:30 p.m.

“We need to keep trying new things and get out of our comfort zones a little bit,” Jones said. “There’s no doubt that we’re going to get better.”

The Express and Zephyrs will then play Sidney at home on Tuesday starting at 5 p.m. with the Juniors’ game, and the teams will travel to Chadron on Wednesday for a 5 p.m. start.

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