By Russ Pankonin
The Imperial Republican
It’s tournament time for Imperial’s Junior Legion. The juniors take a 7-6 mark into the C7 area tournament that starts Friday in Shelton.
Imperial goes in as the #3 seed and will face #6 seed Bertrand/Loomis in the opener Friday of the double elimination tournament.
Coach Carl Zuege feels very optimistic about the team’s chances going into the tournament.
They’ve won four of their last five games to close out the regular season. Zuege said the team played well in those five games and got some good pitching to aid an improved defense.
Zuege said pitching depth is always a concern going into the tournament. Legion rules limit a pitcher to no more than 10 innings and/or no more than three appearances over a rolling 72-hour period.
Zuege said getting to play five games over a five-day period has sharpened his team both at the plate and in the field. Weather has been an issue this season, losing six games to rainouts.
Zuege said they go into the tournament down a player after Nolan Spady broke his foot sliding in at home in a double header against Hershland.
With a win over Betrand/Loomis, the juniors will likely face Alma. The juniors lost to Alma 9-8 in eight innings Sunday at Sutherland.
Despite the loss, Zuege said it was a good game for the kids to be involved in.
In the final three innings, the juniors faced Alma’s ace, who struck out 11 of 12 Imperial batters he faced.
Assuming both teams win their opener, Zuege said they expect to see him in their second game. Zuege said it will be a battle of aces because he plans to throw Ryan Moline in the second game.
A tentative bracket of the tournament accompanies this story.
On Thursday, the juniors traveled to Overton where they took a double header, 17-8 and 6-4. Overton is among the seven teams in the C7 tournament.
On Sunday, they traveled to Sutherland where they met Alma in the first game. After the 9-8 extra inning loss to Alma, they came back to defeat Hershland 11-7. Both of these teams are also in the C7 bracket.
On Monday, they closed the regular season with a 9-7 home win over Ogallala’s juniors.
In the first inning of the opener, Imperial jumped all over the Overton pitching, scoring five runs in the top half of the first.
Moline, Bryson Fisher and Destyn Milner each hit doubles, aided by a single from Caleb Weiss.
Overton scored three in the first and two in the second to tie the game 5-5.
In the top of the third, Imperial went on a six-run rally and held Overton scoreless in the bottom half for an 11-5 lead.
In the rally, Will Kuenne doubled, along with singles from Weiss, Milner, Jorge Cervantes, Bryce Zuege and Jacob Christensen.
Imperial added another run in the top fourth and five more in the top of the fifth while giving up just two more runs in the 17-8 win.
Christensen added a single in the fourth and a triple in the fifth. Kuenne and Moline added singles in the fifth with Imperial drawing four walks in the inning.
At the plate, Christensen and Weiss led the team, each going 3-4 with Moline going 3-5.
Moline went three innings on the mound, giving up four hits, striking out three and walking five. Fisher finished the final two innings, allowing just two hits. He struck out four and allowed no walks.
In game two, Imperial scored four of its six runs in the top of the first with singles from Weiss, Cervantes, Moline, Fisher and Kuenne.
Overton answered with two in the bottom of the first. After a scoreless second by both teams, Imperial added one in the third and one in the fifth.
Hershland scored a pair in the bottom of the fifth and left bases loaded with Cervantes striking out two of the final three batters in the inning for the 6-4 win.
At the plate, Moline, Weiss, Cervantes, Zuege and Kuenne all went 2-3.
Fisher opened the game and gave up three hits and struck out five against two walks in two innings.
Cervantes pitched the final three innings, giving up six hits while striking out four and walking four.
Imperial faced Alma in the first game of a double header at Sutherland.
Alma opened the game with one run in the top of the first while Imperial answered with three runs of its own.
Alma added two in the second and one in the third before Imperial answered with three in the bottom of the third to lead 6-4.
Alma added another in the top of the fourth with Imperial answering with a pair in the bottom half, aided by a double by Weiss, to go up 8-5.
In the top of the fifth, Alma rallied for three runs in the top half of the inning to tie the game 8-8.
Alma brought in their ace and struck out the side to send the game into extra innings, tied 8-8.
Over the next three innings, Alma’s ace would strike out eight more Imperial juniors with Moline the only one to get a bat on the ball, grounding out to short to end the game.
Alma’s lone run came in the top of the eighth. Their first batter got a pass to first and scored on a two-out single to make the difference.
Caleb Weiss went 4 1/3, giving up seven runs on seven hits while striking out six and walking five.
Cervantes came in for 2 1/3 innings, giving up one run on one hit, striking out one and walking one.
Moline finished the game, giving up one run off one hit, striking out one and walking one.
At the plate, Carlos Chavez led the team with two singles.
In the second game of the double header at Sutherland, the juniors won 11-7.
The juniors scored one in the top of the first and followed that with six in the third and four more in the fifth to take a 11-3 lead into the bottom of the fifth.
Hershland got their first six batters on base with walks, scoring four before Imperial could get the final two outs to preserve the win, 11-7.
Jake Leuth led the team at the plate, going 2-3, followed by Cervantes who was 2-4.
Moline opened the game on the mound, allowing three runs on four hits while striking out three and walking four over three innings of work.
Chaves worked 1 1/3, giving up three runs on 1 hit and five walks.
Cervantes closed the game out, giving up just one run on one hit and one walk, while striking out one.
In the regular season finale in Imperial Monday night, the juniors captured a 9-7 win.
Ogallala held a 4-0 lead going into the bottom of the third when Imperial answered with a pair of runs on singles by Weiss and Fisher.
Ogallala added three more in the top of the fourth for a 7-2 margin before a two-out, five-run rally in the bottom half to tie the game.
In the final three innings, Ogallala only got 10 batters to the plate. Meanwhile, Imperial added two more in the bottom of the sixth that proved to be the difference.
Kuenne and Zuege each fiished 2-3 at the plate, including a double by Zuege.
Imperial got an inning from Fisher, who gave up two runs on two hits and three walks.
Jake Lueth came in for the next four innings, giving up five runs on four hits and five walks while striking out four.
Weiss closed out the final two innings, giving up no runs, no hits and no walks while striking out two.
Click here for an updated bracket.