CENTRAL CITY – Offense turned out to be a precious rare commodity for Pierce during the Class C American Legion Seniors state baseball tournament.
For the second-straight game, Pierce managed one hit in what turned into a lopsided loss. On Sunday, it was a 10-0 contest in five innings against Palmer-Wolbach-Greeley in an elimination game at Kernel Field.
Looking back, Pierce coach Brian West said he hopes the stay was a growing experience for a young squad.
“Overall, we weren't expecting to be here,” he said. “I'm playing Juniors, and a lot of first-year Juniors. A really young group.
“I think it's huge because I don't think we make it down here this year if we didn't make it to Class B state last year in Juniors.”
After rain delayed first pitch by two hours, it appeared Pierce would have a bit more offense in the first inning when Seth Valverde roped a two-out single up the middle. But Parker Baumann flew out to end any sort of chance.
In response, PWG got its first two batters on. Hunter Reimers was hit by a pitch, stole second, and scored moments later when Connor Wood threaded a single just inside the left-field foul line.
But, just like the previous day, a big inning turned out to be the big blow that ultimately knocked Pierce out of the tournament.
It all came against Pierce starting pitcher Kyle West, who worked a complete game to win the Area 1 championship last week and couldn't throw in the state opener due to pitch count limits.
He motored through the first two innings, needing just 29 pitches combined. But he needed 55 to get out of the third and 22 in the fourth, finishing with 123 pitches in 4 1/3 innings.
“Notoriously, it's taken him (the younger West) a while to get warmed up this year,” coach West said. “As far as Kyle's pitching, I thought the strike zone was really tight, and some of them were questionable that really hurt us, but again, we could talk about how many runs they scored all day, but if can only get one or two hits, it doesn't matter.”
One inning after Pierce retired PWG in order, the opponents batted 12 and scored six runs on just three hits for a 7-0 lead – and even left the bases loaded in the third.
“It does change the game when you get a big inning like that,” PWG coach Brad Reimers said. “That inning before, we had a couple guys who flew out to the pitcher, and I told them that he (West) is not the kind who pounds the strike zone. We needed to wait for our pitch and get guys on base. He struggled once we got guys on base.”
It started with a pair of walks around a strikeout leading into Spencer Wichman ripping a two-run single into left field. Another walk and a flyout later, Drake Kunze added his own two-run single into center.
The free base runners continued for PWG, as a walk and hit batsman, both with the bases loaded, to score two more runs, but a strikeout left the bases full.
“Today and yesterday, I had kids playing where they normally didn't play, or where it wasn't best for the positions they were at,” coach West said. “If you go back and look at the game, there were a lot of situations, where it might've been two outs, or it might have been the first out, where we could've gotten out of the inning, but the guy didn't make the play.”
Meanwhile, PWG ace Jake Simonsen, whose last outing was a complete-game win over Albion in the Area 6 title game, cruised through 3 2/3 innings. He struck out eight and walked one in 59 pitches before giving way to Daltyn Rother. In his first outing of the season, he allowed just one base runner, who reached on an error.
“He's been our leading pitcher as long as I can remember,” coach Reimers said.
Kunze's sacrifice scored Kaden Reimers in the fourth, and PWG ended it in the fifth when Michael Wolfe scored on a wild pitch and Wichman's sacrifice brought in Chandler Donscheski.
Pierce 000 00 – 0 1 1
PWG 106 12x – 10 5 1
WP: Jake Simonsen. LP: Kyle West. SAC: PWG, Spencer Wichman, Drake Kunze.