LINCOLN — Patience at the plate has been drilled into the Lincoln Pius X baseball team, even if it means having to take a pitch for the team.
The Thunderbolts showed off their patience Tuesday, turning a tie game after five innings into a 9-2 win against Omaha Skutt at Haymarket Park in a winners bracket game at the state tournament. Pius scored five of its eight runs in the final two innings by either drawing walks or being hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
The Thunderbolts (18-1), Class B’s last unbeaten team in the tournament, will play Norris at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Sherman Field. The Titans stayed alive Tuesday with a 9-1 win against Omaha Roncalli in an elimination game. Skutt (16-7) will play an elimination contest against Omaha Gross following the Pius-Norris contest.
Both starting pitchers were cruising through five innings, but with the game tied 1-1 in the top of the sixth, it was Skutt’s Mickey Bassett who ran into trouble.
With one out, Bassett walked Jake Schleppenbach, hit Alex Schleppenbach and, after a flyout, hit Tyler Hooper to load the bases. Reliever Keanu Mendez entered the game and hit Tom Schneider on a 2-2 pitch to score Jake Schleppenbach, then plunked Michael Helman to drive in Alex Schleppenbach and give the Thunderbolts a 3-1 lead.
“I think we did a great job all nightlong battling in at-bats, wearing him down, working the pitch count,” Jake Schleppenbach said. “I think it finally just got to him.”
Pius blew the game open in the top of the seventh with six runs on three hits, four walks and a hit batter.
“Our relief pitching was just a lack of focus,” SkyHawks coach Shawn Exner said. “They didn’t come in and do their job. They know they don’t have to throw real hard. They just have to throw strikes, induce ground balls and fly balls like Mickey was doing. It just wasn’t there today.”
Jake Schleppenbach reached base in all four plate appearances. He had a double, two walks and a hit by pitch, scoring two runs. Seven Thunderbolts scored at least one run.
Sophomore Nolan Hakel was one batter shy of going the distance for Pius. The left-hander scattered seven hits and struck out four before Nolan Walker came in to record the final out.
In three state tournament games, Thunderbolts pitchers have allowed four runs in 19 innings. Pius coach Troy Charf said he wasn’t sure who would pitch Wednesday’s game against Norris, but said his team should have plenty of fresh arms.
“We’re fortunate enough to be pretty deep in pitching anyway,” Charf said, “but this gives us the luxury of having a lot of options the deeper this (tournament) goes.”
Lincoln Pius X (18-1) ............ 100 002 6—9 7 1
Omaha Skutt (16-7) .............. 000 100 1—2 7 1
W: Nolan Hakel, 3-0. L: Mickey Bassett, 3-2. 2B: OS, Evans, Schwetschenau. LPX, J. Schleppenbach. HR: OS, Evans.
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