The Johnson Imperial Homes junior American Legion baseball team got off to a hot start in the Class A, Area 7 tournament on Friday. Patience at the plate and timely hits jolted the Hastings offense, while Pierce McVicker and Trevor Sullivan shut down the opponent from the mound.
That recipe resulted in a 24-0 victory for the Braves, who advance to play top-seeded North Platte Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
Hastings head coach Blake Marquardt was proud of the business-like mentality his players brought to the field.
“I think our confidence was where I foresee our guys being at right now,” he said. “Pierce started the game for us and did a nice job on the mound, and our guys got behind him. We knew we just needed to come out and take care of business. When you’re playing competition, the regular season and postseason are always different and you don’t know what you’re going to see.
“You always want to make sure you play up to your ability and not down to anyone else’s ability. I thought we did that (Friday).”
JIH scored in every inning of the game, which ended after five frames due to the run rule. Hastings piled up 13 hits and benefitted from 19 walks and hit-by-pitches, in addition to three Lexington errors.
“They stayed within themselves and didn’t try to do more than what they were capable of doing,” Marquardt said. “They got into hitters counts, which they were in a lot (Friday). I think it made it a little easier to hit. Hopefully (Saturday) they’re ready; it’ll be a different story (Saturday).”
The Braves, who were the visiting team, flexed their muscle right away. After Macrae Huyser opened the game with a walk, Braden Kalvelage tripled him home for the game’s first run. Kalvelage later scored on an error in centerfield.
JIH then tacked on five more runs without recording a hit. Leading 7-0, the Braves posted an eight-spot on the scoreboard, highlighted by Beau Dreher’s three-run triple.
After extending the lead to 15-0, Hastings notched another run in the fourth before piling on eight more in the fifth. JIH tallied six hits in the final inning.
While the offense was cruising, McVicker was doing his part on the mound. The JIH starter tossed 2 2/3 innings of no-hit baseball. He struck out four and walked just one.
“He commanded his fastball, and he got ahead of hitters and stayed ahead of them. And the defense made plays behind him,” the coach said. “When you can do those things, there’s no reason to go to a second or third pitch when you can get outs with your fastball.”
McVicker was pulled in the third inning to preserve his pitch count, allowing him to come back as early as Sunday if needed. Sullivan took over on the mound and threw the final 2 1/3 innings. He gave up three hits but didn’t allow any runs. He, too, was efficient enough to require just one day of rest before taking the mound again.
“Both of our guys stayed under that 45 (pitch limit) so both need only one day to rest and both can come back Sunday or Monday or Tuesday, if we make it that far,” Marquardt said. “But that was kind of the goal, keep everybody within distance of coming back sooner rather than later.”
Nathan Burns, Justin Musgrave, Kalvelage and Huyser all finished the game with two hits. Dreher led the way with five RBIs, while Huyser had three. Kalvelage, Treyton Newman, Musgrave and Rob Foote had two apiece.
The Braves now turn their focus to North Platte, which has won two of the three meetings this season. Marquardt expects to see North Platte’s ace, William Coe, who JIH has seen in two of the teams’ matchups.
“(Coe) is a good guy, and we’re going to throw Dreher against them. They’ve both gone against each other twice this year, so that’ll be the third time, and we’ll just see what happens,” the coach said.
Hastings......258 18 — 24 13 1
Lexington........000 00 — 0 3 3
W — Pierce McVicker. L — Greg Treffer.
2B — H, Justin Musgrave; L, Anthony Rodriguez.
3B — H, Braden Kalvelage, Beau Dreher.