The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Don Ogle 

Sidney Junior season comes to an end

 

Don Ogle / Sun-Telegraph Editor

Sidney's Logan Sircy whips the ball to first for a double play against Alliance in state tournament action Sunday. Sidney's defense was, as a whole, working well over the course of the tournament, keeping the Juniors in its games. But for the first time Sidney batters were handcuffed almost the entire weekend and unable to string together one of the powerful innings they've been known for. Sidney's final season game was a 7-4 loss to Alliance.

Sidney's Legion Junior team saw its season come to an end Sunday in state tournament play, and while losing its final game was disappointing to players and fans alike, the season was a success nonetheless.

"If you'd have asked me after the first practice if we would end up with a record like this – no way," said Coach Ray Witt following Sidney's last outing.

Going into the tournament with a 15-11-1 record, Sidney had its hopes set on turning some heads.

And, the way they started, they did in a manner.

The Juniors opened tournament play against Mt. Michael from Elkhorn, which rolled into town with a powerful team with a distinct advantage. Unlike Sidney, Mt. Michael plays baseball during the school year.

Facing an opponent with a couple more months playing time under their belts, Witt expected a tough contest in the state opener.

Mt. Michael got a jump on scoring, posting two runs in the top of the second.

Sidney remained scoreless offensively through four innings of play, but cut Mt. Michael's lead in half when Arik Doty singled to left to lead off the bottom of the fifth. Doty went all the way to third on a James Riva single, then went home on a fielders' choice when Mt. Michael chose to go for the double play on a Dante Peterson ground ball.

Sidney's defense gave a little, but didn't break, making key plays to shut Mt. Michael's threats down. That continued through the final inning when, after putting the guests down, Sidney got its last crack trailing 2-1.

The Juniors got the tying runner on base with one out when Zach Means' ground ball was bobbled by the Mt. Michael second baseman. Kyler Lenzen, who came in to run for Means, got into scoring position when a ground ball off of Doty's bat rolled just out of the reach of the shortstop.

With one out and runners on first and second, that put Sidney in position to at least tie the game. But Mt. Michael halted the drive with a strikeout and a 4-to-3 ground out to salvage the win.

The loss set up Sidney to face an old and familiar foe, Alliance, on Sunday. Alliance went to the loser's bracket after losing 2-0 to Seward.

In their sixth meeting of the season, Alliance popped out to a quick lead by virtue of a leadoff single followed by three walks from Doty to make it 1-0. Alliance's JJ Garza added another run with a RBI single to right and Alliance made it 3-0 when Ezra Ray hit a sacrifice fly to left.

Sidney closed the gap in the third when Eli Ahrens drew a walk, then went to third when an ensuing pickoff attempt went wide and down the right field fence. Ahrens scored on a Logan Sircy sacrifice to left, making it 3-1.

That small Alliance lead held until the sixth inning when Alliance took advantage of a walks and added back-to-back singles to stretch its lead to 6-1.

Sidney was unable to add anything to the scoreboard in the bottom of the sixth, but turned the tables somewhat in the seventh when Riva, Peterson and Kratzer reached base on consecutive walks.

Ahrens struck out, but Sircy pushed a run across on a sacrifice when a chopper in front of the plate forced Alliance to make its play to first.

Zach Holtz wouldn't let Sidney's hopes go with two outs and runners on second and third, pushing Sidney's second and third runs of the inning across with a hard hit single to that was just out of reach of the center fielder.

But that was as far as Sidney's final rally went, the end coming when Brett Jaggers grounded out to second base to make the final score 7-4.

Sidney's defensive effort through the tournament was, as a whole, solid. The Juniors made outs without a lot of costly untimely errors.

But at the plate, Sidney was handcuffed by opposing pitchers, who never allowed the Juniors to put together sustained offensive drives they had used to spark so many of their wins.

Part of that was the caliber, and part of it the type, of pitching Sidney saw in the tournament. In the opener, Sidney faced Ben Bies, a lefty with pinpoint control who pitched a one-hitter in Mt. Michael's district championship game.

Painting the plate with precision, Bies focused on the outside of the plate against Sidney. The result was more pop ups and weak infield ground ball than most of Sidney's season combined. Alliance too, threw a lefty, with much the same result.

"We just didn't see that many left handed pitchers this year," Witt said.

Witt also praised Bies, who he said "was hands down the best pitcher we've seen this year."

While the end was bitter, Witt said he looks forward to next season seeing the team's continued improvement.

"We'll come back and give them a good crack next year," Witt said.

 

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