Imperial’s Legion team is wrapping up its shortened, COVID-affected season with tournament games this week and next. Members of both junior and senior teams are, front from left, Mason Wallin, Carter Leibbrandt, Jaret Peterson, Dominic Sis, Tyler O’Neil, Cooper Dillan, Tristan Hite, Bryder Hickey, back from left, Emmitt Zuege, Koltar Rahn, Hunter Garner, Nolan Foster, Nolan Burrell, Lincoln Waters, Trevor Peterson, Mason Nordhausen, Keenan Cole, Tysen Lempke, Morel Jurado and Colin O’Neil. Not pictured—Trye Hickey.
Diane Stamm | Johnson Publications
Pitcher Tristan Hite flips the ball to first to get this Holdrege batter, as first baseman Morel Jurado waits for the throw.
Juniors win west division; playing for championship vs. east winner
Imperial’s juniors held on to their No. 1 seed in the Mid-Nebraska League’s west tournament, winning the division outright for the first time.
Imperial used strong hitting and reliable pitching to defeat Holdrege on Saturday and Broken Bow Sunday in Imperial.
The win advanced them to the league east-west championship game against Shelton/Gibbon Wednesday night in Shelton at Veterans Memorial Park.
Imperial takes a 14-3 record heading into Wednesday’s 6 p.m. MT game.
Shelton/Gibbon is 8-7 after upsetting three teams en route to the east tournament championship, where they were the No. 5 seed among six teams.
They opened with a win over No. 4 Grand Island, then upset top-seeded Kearney in the semi-finals. Shelton/Gibbon defeated No. 2 seed PWG in the finals.
Imperial Coach Bruce Peterson said some extra work on hitting in their three off days before the tournament paid off last weekend, especially in Sunday’s Broken Bow game.
“We had been struggling at the plate, so we spent those three days going over fundamentals,” especially at the plate, Peterson said.
Work on fundamentals was cut short this year due to the season’s late start, and short time between start of practice and first games.
He said that work came to fruition Sunday, when Imperial tallied 12 hits against Broken Bow. Every player coming to bat had a hit.
Peterson said the talk all this week has been how several teams around Lincoln and other areas of the state were unable to finish their seasons due to COVID-19.
“I told our kids they need to feel fortunate we’ve been able to finish,” he said.
Each year, the Mid-Nebraska League alternates between the east and west on which side hosts the league tourney games. For the juniors this year, the east is host.
For the seniors’ east-west championship game later this month, the west division winner will host.
Holdrege traveled to Imperial Saturday after beating Gothenburg in first-round play last Thursday.
Imperial took the 5-2 win, after jumping ahead 2-0 in their first at-bat.
Holdrege scored its first run in the third, but Imperial responded with another in the fourth, leading 3-1
Holdrege added their second run in the fifth, but singles from Nolan Burrell and Morel Jurado added two more for Imperial.
Holdrege was held from scoring the final two innings, as five batters went down on strike-outs.
Peterson said it was key that pitcher Tristan Hite went the distance for Imperial Saturday, striking out 14, walking three and giving up four hits.
“He did a great job,” Peterson said.
Hite’s pitching saved ace Burrell for Sunday’s championship game.
Tysen Lempke led at the plate with a double and single. Also recording singles were Hite, Burrell, Jurado and Carter Leibbrandt.
Broken Bow game
After losing to Broken Bow just a week earlier, Imperial’s juniors came back in Sunday’s championship with a huge 11-6 win.
And, that’s despite back-to-back Broken Bow homeruns in the fifth.
Peterson said he was impressed with his team’s fortitude.
“We just kept adding runs. They bounced back and never quit,” he said.
With a 7-5 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth, Imperial had their biggest inning of the day, scoring four runs on four hits, taking an 11-5 lead.
Broken Bow added one more in the seventh.
Burrell finished 5.2 innings on the mound, racking up six strikeouts, one walk and giving up five runs.
Jaret Peterson came in on relief, striking out one and walking one.
Every Imperial player earned a hit, led by Burrell with a double and two singles. Also tallying doubles were Hite and Jurado, while Keenan Cole added two singles. Solo singles were hit by Lempke, Peterson, Emmitt Zuege, Leibbrandt and Bryder Hickey.