Coaching young high school baseball teams can require patience.
That was proven Thursday at Veterans Memorial Field as Norfolk High School dropped a doubleheader to state-ranked Lincoln Southwest 8-3 and 10-1.
There were some encouraging moments for the Panthers in all three phases — solid pitching, timely hitting and good defense. Then there were times when play was messy and the team struggled to get out of innings on another cold night.
Norfolk High School coach Sean Wetterberg said starting pitcher Jaden Driscoll had another strong outing.
“In the first game, he went out there once again and showed us what he could do,” Wetterberg said. “He went after hitters, didn’t walk many and got a few strikeouts. He’s become a guy we can count on to go deep into the game and give us a chance to win every time out.”
The Panthers were within 3-2 going into the seventh and final inning behind Driscoll, who mixed mostly fastballs and curveballs.
“He did a good job against us mixing in his offspeed pitches,” said Lincoln Southwest coach Mitch Vernon. “We had to string together some good at bats and then we got aggressive on the base paths toward the end. That’s how we got our runs going.”
Driscoll battled through the first six innings, just giving up two unearned runs at that point. He had thrown 72 pitches, so he came out for the seventh inning.
But that’s when the Southwest bats came alive. The first three Southwest batters got hits, then Driscoll walked his only batter before getting relieved by Brandon Ellenwood.
The Silverhawks continued to get hits before Ellenwood managed to record the final three outs. Big hits included a two-run double by Ty Regier and an RBI triple by Cooper Samway.
“We give our guys a lot of freedoms in the batter’s box and on the base paths,” Vernon said. “We play free, but there’s still a lot of things we have to clean up. It takes a lot of concentration to play on a cold night like this. Between innings, it is so important to do things like play catch to keep your arm warm.”
Driscoll’s final line included four strikeouts, one walk, eight hits and six runs, four of which were earned.
Offensively for Norfolk, Parker Hansen, Nolan Strand and Dylan Rodgers each had two hits.
In the nightcap, Norfolk used four pitchers and committed six errors. The Panther pitchers walked 11 batters, making for some long innings.
“In game two, we were still trying to stretch some of these guys out,” Wetterberg said. “This is their first or second time out, so we are not going to have them throw 70 or 80 pitches. And once we get down to our fourth and fifth guys against a really good team like this, they’re going to make us pay. This is one of the best teams in the state and we didn’t need to give them a lot of free baserunners.”
Offensively in the second game, Norfolk had six players collect hits. All of them were singles, with a hit from Aaron Bonderson scoring Nolan Strand.
Wetterberg said he has been pleased with hitting and pitching as of late.
“If we could just clean up some of our defense, we could be in every game,” he said. “Most of our mistakes are coming on routine plays. We’re just not making them. That’s the key right there. Can we make the plays, especially when the game is on the line?”
Wetterberg paused, then answered his own question.
“I believe that we will. Once we do that (clean up the defense), we are going to be a pretty good team and we’ll see some wins come our way.”
Lincoln Southwest (6-2) 000 200 6 — 8 11 1
Norfolk (1-6) 000 101 1 — 3 6 3
WP: Jonah Coleman. LP: Jaden Driscoll. 2B: (LS) Treyton Randall, Ty Reiger, 3B: (LS) Cooper Samway.
Lincoln Southwest (7-2) 012 016 0 — 10 5 1
Norfolk (1-7) 000 100 0 — 1 6 6
WP: Alex Hunzeker. LP: Carson Dominisse. 2B: (LS) Will Watkins, Taylor Randall.
* When the second game ended shortly before 10 p.m., the air temperature was 36 degrees. With the wind chill, it felt like 27 degrees, making it the coldest game so far this season.
* In three of its last four games, Norfolk has outhit its opponents, yet has a record of 1-3. In each of the games, however, Norfolk has committed more errors or the same number.
* Carter Faltys had a seven-game hitting streak end. It was snapped in the nightcap as he went 0 for 3, although he reached base once when he was hit by a pitch.
* An unusual play occurred for Norfolk in the fifth inning of the second game. Parker Hansen was pitching and recorded a strikeout, but the ball bounced off catcher Ryland Bates’ chest. Hansen then grabbed the ball and threw it to first base for the putout, which rarely happens by anyone but the catcher.
* Norfolk will play another ranked team on Tuesday when it hosts Grand Island in a doubleheader at Veterans Memorial Field, beginning at 5 p.m.