By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
Imperial Crush finished second in the High Plains Adult baseball district tournament held in Imperial Saturday.
The tournament turned into a three-team round robin after Kimball dropped out before the weekend.
Crush needed an extra inning to defeat Sidney 3-1 in the district opener.
Sidney then fell to the Colorado Bombers 11-5, setting up the championship game of the Crush versus the Bombers.
The first time the two teams met in the regular season, the Bombers came away with an 18-2 win.
The Crush trimmed the margin to five, 12-7, in their second meeting of the season.
With a berth to the Class B tournament on the line, the Crush battled hard but fell 4-6 to finish as the runner-up.
The Crush finished with a 4-7 mark on the year while the Bombers carry a 9-1 record into this weekend’s Class B state tournament in Wakefield.
Best two games of the season
Coach Matt Jablonski said the Crush played their best two games of the season during Saturday’s tournament.
He said the pitching and defense shined in the two games.
In the opener, Darrin Schultz went the first seven innings. He gave up just six hits and one walk while striking out 10 Sidney batters.
Alex Sharp came in for the save in the eighth inning, striking out two of the three Sidney batters.
Sharp went the distance in the championship game, giving up just seven hits and two walks, while setting down five.
Jablonski said the Crush left too many runners on base—11, to be exact.
Offensively, Crush picked up just seven hits against the Bombers and committed three errors in the championship game.
As the visitors on their home field, Crush jumped to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first.
Lance Milner got the lead-off run after opening the game with a single.
The game remained 1-0 until the bottom of the third when Sidney tied the game 1-1 on a single and pair of Crush errors.
In the bottom of the fifth, Schultz pitched himself out of trouble after Sidney loaded the bases.
The game was delayed in the sixth inning for nearly a half hour when the Sidney pitcher was injured.
It appeared that he snapped a bone in his pitching arm as he went to deliver a pitch. Players noted they could hear the snap when the bone apparently broke between the shoulder and elbow.
After the delay, it was the Crush who left bases loaded in the top of the seventh.
In the bottom half of the seventh, Schultz answered by striking out the side to send the game into extra innings, tied 1-1.
Scott Way opened the top of the eighth with a single. After a sacrifice by Eric McDaniel to advance Way, Sharp reached base on a walk.
A single by Schultz scored Way for the go-ahead run. Sharp added a second run off a double by Jeremy Mathews before the Crush went down, leaving two on base.
Sidney loaded the bases to open the eighth but Sharp got his first out on a pop-up to Mathews at catcher.
From there, Sharp struck out the next two batters to claim the save and give the Crush a 3-1 win.
Crush gives Bombers a game
In the championship game, Crush went to the plate first as vistors for a second time.
They left a pair of runners on base in the top of the first while the Bombers scored three runs on two singles and a double.
Schultz put the Crush on the board with a lead-off homer to open the second.
In the third, Jablonski scored on a single by Sharp after getting a free pass to first.
The Bombers answered with a solo homer in the bottom of the third to pull ahead 4-2.
The Crush narrowed that lead to 4-3 when Mathews scored after being hit by a pitch to get on base.
The decisive runs in the game came in the bottom of the fourth when the Bombers padded their lead with a pair of runs off three hits.
After scoreless fifth and sixth innings, the Crush needed runs to stay alive in the top of the seventh.
Way got on base on an error, stole second and came around to third on a passed ball.
Sharp got to first on a walk, bringing Schultz, the potential winning run, to the plate.
Schultz singled to bring in Way and advance Sharp.
Unfortunately, the Crush went down in order from there to fall 4-6.
Sharp and Schultz led the team at the plate, each going 2-3.
Pleased with tournament
Jablonski said the tournament went off really well.
He expressed his appreciation to volunteers who worked during the tournament and the regular season, including Jill Moline, who manned the concession stand.
Sponsors for the Crush this season included Longhorn Lawn Care, Imperial Country Ford, Pivot Electric and Chase County Farm Bureau.
Country Ford, the Imperial Republican, Schultz Construction and Northside Motel served as foul-ball sponsors during the tournament.
Jablonski also credited Jan Schultz and Russ Pankonin at the Republican for their season-long coverage.
He encouraged people to consider joining the team next season. He said it provides players with an opportunity to stay close to a game they love.
People wanting more information can “touch base” with Jablonski.