The Norfolk Auto/Elkhorn Valley Bank Post 16 Juniors won the marathon on Wednesday at Memorial Field.
The Columbus Blues won the sprint.
The teams split their doubleheader in about as differing fashion as possible. Norfolk used Ethan Synovec’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 10th inning to pick up a 9-8 win in the opener.
Columbus came roaring back by putting up 12 runs in the second inning of the second game to roll to a 14-1 victory. That game was called after four innings due to a 90-minute time limit.
The opener had plenty of momentum swings back and forth. Columbus plated three runs in the top of the first only to see Norfolk answer that in the fifth to go up 4-3.
Columbus put up five unanswered runs over the sixth and seventh innings to take what appeared to be a commanding 8-4 lead, but Norfolk rallied in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings.
“It was so nice,” Norfolk coach Tom Sullivan said. “They did they same thing to us in Columbus. They jumped right on us, and the energy was down. But we kept plugging. To get those four runs back (in the seventh inning) was huge.
“Our leadership really kept us in the game, and we were finally able to win it on that sac fly.”
Norfolk had its chances in both the eighth and ninth innings to end things. Braylon Votta led off the eighth with a deep hit to center field but was called out at third base.
Dylan Viergutz had a one-out double in the ninth but was stranded at third.
Columbus only managed one baserunner during extra innings, and Norfolk finally cashed in on its opportunities in the bottom of the 10th.
Votta reached on an error, Noah Hinrichs had a perfectly hit bunt single and Wes Koenig followed with another bunt single to load the bases with no outs.
Synovec hit the first pitch he saw to center field, more than deep enough to allow Votta to score the winning run.
“I wanted to stay calm and not get too tense,” Synovec said. “I wanted to stay simple and put the ball in play and let the play play out. I knew it was deep enough that we could tag up and win the game there.”
Sullivan said Synovec took the right approach to the at bat.
“That’s what we teach,” Sullivan said. “There’s nothing to lose, right? Put the ball in play and see what happens.”
Norfolk was happy to finally cash in and win a game in which it outhit Columbus 17-7.
“We did have quite a few chances to get the job done,” Synovec said. “Finally we really capitalized on that chance and got the job done. It was exciting that we finished that game out.”
Columbus put up three runs in the top of the seventh to take an 8-4 advantage.
But Norfolk came through with no room for error to tie it. The first two runs scored on wild pitches, and Easton Sullivan came through with a two-out, two-run single as part of his three RBIs.
“The top of our order – Sawyer Wolff and Easton – set the tone for the rest,” Tom Sullivan said. “Then Anden (Schold) and Jake (Colligan), those older guys, they just kept plugging. It was a big hit, a walk, anything we can get.
“The big at bat was Sawyer’s where we had two outs and he fouled off I don’t know how many balls (five) before getting a walk. Then Easton hit a blooper that tied the game for us.”
Things snowballed against Norfolk in the second game. Spencer Shotkoski, Quenten Gustafson and Seth Brandl all had two-run hits in the second inning for Columbus. Four players crossed home plate twice in the frame.
“Our biggest downside this year has been our pitching,” Tom Sullivan said. “We just aren’t throwing strikes consistently. Whoever we play, it seems like that first inning they get some runs and put pressure on us from the beginning. That starts with our pitching.
“It’s one thing we have to work on here until the end because we want to advance in the area tournament and get into that championship game.”
Brandl limited Norfolk to one hit, and that was a single by Viergutz to lead off the bottom of the first.
“You’ve got to forget about it and move onto the next one,” Synovec said. “We’ve got a big tournament this weekend (in Sioux Falls, South Dakota), so forget about that one.
“We’ve been playing pretty well. There’s always things you can improve on and get better at, and that’s what we’ll try to do.”
The loss snapped a seven-game winning streak by Norfolk (16-8), which included a sweep at Columbus last week.
“We are right where I had hoped we would be,” Tom Sullivan said. “Other than that second game tonight, we’ve played some pretty good baseball. We’ve won a couple of tournament. Our top pitchers have pitched well and we get enough offense to get the job done.”
Columbus 300 002 300 0 – 8 7 2
Norfolk 001 030 400 1 – 9 17 4
WP: Wolff. LP: Kudron. 2B: (COL) Zoucha, Wickham, Shotkoski; (NOR) Sullivan, Flood, Votta.
Columbus 1(12)1 0 – 14 10 1
Norfolk 100 0 – 1 1 3
WP: Brandl. LP: Votte. 2B: (COL) Wickham, Gustafson, Larson, Brandl.