SYRACUSE — It was the tale of two programs and experience won out, but what a ride it was for Valentine Post 90.
Pender Post 55, the Legion program with years of state experience scored eight, Valentine with its first-ever state experience 0 here in the Nebraska State American Legion Senior Class C State Playoffs here at Veterans Field Monday.
Reading between the lines above, the score was Pender 8, Valentine 0, but it was more than just a game for Valentine.
“It’s been quite a ride,” long-time Valentine manager Kent Lopez said. “I think we showed ourselves and some of the rest of the state we can compete — it sure shows us we can make it to this level — we just did.”
Post 55 skipper, Clay Haymart said although a game shortened by a run-rule, it was a valuable game in the process of his team getting better.
“Any state experience is good experience — sometimes if its even a bad experience,” he said. “But we had some guys hit the ball in this game who have been slumping of late.”
Not necessarily slumping, but Pender’s Sam Mailloux went 3-for-3 at the plate in the contest including a double and he scored a run.
“We have a lineup that is pretty even throughout the lineup,” Haymart said. “But the bottom end has been slumping a little — it’s just part of the game.”
Lopez, who has been the manager of the Valentine Legion program for 42 years, soaked in his first experience at the state tournament.
“I’m an example of the fact to enjoy the experience, you never know when you will get back here,” Lopez said. “If we wait another 42 years, I won’t be along for the ride.”
Lopez also pointed out, his team was very happy to be playing baseball late in July.
“I’m not going to lie, we were very happy just to get here,” he said. “But I told our guys the first day I thought we could truly play with any of the teams — we had played Hartington earlier in the year without some of our guys and we competed — they beat us, but we competed.”
Another sign the future in bright in north central Nebraska was its youth.
“We lined up for a picture with all of the Seniors on this year’s team after the game,” Lopez said. “There were eight people in the picture and three of them were coaches.”
In the game with Pender already up 8-0, Lopez decided to give one of the Junior players the ball on the mound.
Cameron Jordan pitched the last couple of innings and kept Pender from scoring additional runs.
In addition, both Haymart and Lopez freely substituted Junior players in the latter stages of the game for everyone to experience the entire experience.
As for the game, Pender scored three runs in the first after the Valentine pitcher plunked the first three Pender batters to load the bases.
After a flyout and a sacrifice bunt from Hunter Ferguson, which scored a run, Mailloux smacked his double to chase in the remaining baserunners.
Valentine had back-to-back singles to open its half of the first, but Brysen Limbach and Tagg Buechle were left stranded on base in the frame.
Pender would score again with a couple of runs in the second and three in the third to make the 8-0 final.
After losing earlier in the day, Post 55 was happy to get back on track.
“We’re used to playing elimination games,” Haymart said. “We have our pitching in place, so we’ll go out tomorrow and try to do it all over again.”
Pender is in the remaining four teams and will take on Bruning-Davenport-Shickley in a 5 p.m. game here at Veterans Field. The winner of that game will take on either Dannebrog-Cairo-Boelus and Syracuse in the finals on Wednesday at 5 p.m. and an “if necessary game” following.
As for Post 90 they left with plenty of memories.
“With the young kids we have and this experience we may be back sooner than later,” Lopez said. “It’s been quite a ride but, right now, I’m ready to go home for a nap.”
P 323 00 — 8 8 0
V 000 00 — 0 6 2
WP: Eric Schopke LP: Devon Osnes.
2B: (P) Sam Mailloux. 3B: (P) Brady Oliver.