COLUMBUS — The Norfolk Nucor Steel Seniors baseball team will have its back to the wall after losing 7-1 to top-seeded Fremont First State Bank at Pawnee Park here on Friday afternoon.
With the loss in the opening game of the Class A, Area 6 American Legion baseball tournament, Norfolk will have to come out of the loser’s bracket if its season is to continue.
It could be a long road, starting Saturday at 1 p.m. against Grand Island, which lost to Gretna 7-4 on Friday.
Early on Friday, it looked good for Norfolk, getting up 1-0 after the top of the first. Then Norfolk committed three errors that led to four unearned runs as Fremont batted around and took a 4-1 lead in its half of the first inning.
While Norfolk did threaten at times later, more errors and a costly mistake on the bases kept Norfolk from ever making a comeback.
“It was just not our day,” Norfolk coach Bladen Bales said. “Dylan (Rodgers) gave us a good outing on the mound. He did everything we asked him to do. We just couldn’t play defense behind him.
“A little of that is focus. A little of that is the ball not bouncing our way. A little of that might have been the heat. I give credit to Dylan for being a bulldog on the mound, but we just didn’t have it today.”
Rodgers pitched five innings, striking out five, walking three and hitting a batter. He gave up six hits, with two of the seven runs earned. He threw 98 pitches. Jared Ertzner relieved him and threw one scoreless inning, which included Norfolk’s only double play.
Rodgers scored Norfolk’s only run, walking to lead off the game. He then stole second and scored on a ground ball by Ryland Bates that Fremont’s second baseman threw away. Norfolk’s chances for a big inning in the first ended when Fremont pitcher Mitchell Glause then struck out three of the next four batters.
Bales said Fremont is a good team, but it was disappointing because Norfolk is capable of playing better than it showed.
“I don’t know what it was,” Bales said. “We weren’t handling the game as well as they were. Mentally, we weren’t where they were. We didn’t get hits when we needed to get hits. We had our opportunities, but we just couldn’t get it done. I don’t know if these guys are mentally tired but we have to get it get together tomorrow or we are going to be going home.”
Norfolk managed just five hits, but had two runners on with just one out in the third, fourth and sixth innings.
In the third inning, Norfolk later had the bases loaded with two outs and Bradon Ellenwood at bat. However, the runner at first base got picked off after not sliding on a close play back to the bag.
In the sixth inning, Norfolk had two runners on when Rodgers lined a ball to the gap in left field, but Fremont’s Eli Herink ran near it, then extended his arm just enough to reach it and hold on to the ball.
Rodgers said Fremont is a good hitting team, so he tried to mix his fastball with another pitch. There were no extra base hits in the game.
“My slider wasn’t really on today, so I started throwing my knuckle-curve and it was working because I was getting a lot of ground balls. I just kept going with that,” Rodgers said. “They are a solid hitting team.”
Rodgers said Fremont also has a lot of hitters who are good at fouling pitches off, so he had to rely on something other than a fastball in hopes they would roll it over and ground out.
While Norfolk already has a loss, Rodgers said he is confident the team can turn it around on Saturday.
“We have two good pitchers who are available for tomorrow, so I think we can get right back on track and still come out and win this,” he said. “We just need to turn it around.”
Class A, Area 6 Seniors
Norfolk (14-20) 100 000 0 — 1 5 5
Fremont (24-6) 400 210 X — 7 6 1
WP: Mitchell Glause LP: Dylan Rodgers.