Three the hard way -- Juniors repeat as RBL champs
WAKEFIELD -- The Wayne American Legion Post 43 Juniors defended their reign atop the Ralph Bishop League summit, but needed an extra inning to get it done.
The two-time defending RBL champions blew a four-run lead and trailed going to the bottom of the seventh, but came through with the tying run to force extra innings and then scored on an error to come away with a 6-5 win over Arlington to claim the league title Sunday at Eaton Field.
Wayne broke a scoreless tie in the third when Blake Bartos tripled and scored on a Jacob Kneifl double. Kneifl would later come home on a Brock Hopkins single, and Max Miller followed with a two-out single to give the Juniors a 4-0 advantage.
Arlington, which lost to Wayne 15-0 earlier in the season, chipped away at the deficit, scoring a run in the fourth and two more in the fifth, then took a 5-4 lead with two runs in the top of the seventh off reliever Reid Korth.
Wayne forced extra innings with some crafty baserunning in the bottom of the seventh. Brooks Kneifl walked and moved to second on a Miller sacrifice. He advanced to third on a wild pitch, then came home on a suicide squeeze bunt by Toby Braun to tie the game at 5-5. Braun stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch, then tried to come home on another suicide squeeze bunt by Tyrus Eischeid, but was thrown out on a close play at the plate.
In the eighth, Jacob Kneifl doubled to lead off the inning, and after Korth was given a free pass to first, Gunnar Jorgensen laid down a sacrifice bunt. The throw to third was wild, and Kneifl came home with the winning run to give Wayne the championship.
Miller, Blake Bartos and Jacob Kneifl each had two hits to highlight Wayne's nine hit attack. Korth got the win in relief of Bartos. Bartos threw five innings, allowing three runs on four hits with three strikeouts and two walks. Korth threw the final three innings, allowing two runs on four hits with five strikeouts.
Wayne had five errors to Arlington's four.
The Juniors reached Sunday's final after a hard-fought 2-0 win over Columbus Lakeview in Saturday's semifinal at Battle Creek.
It was a pitcher's duel until the sixth when Wayne finally put a number on the scoreboard. Jacob Kneifl started the inning with a walk and moved to third on a double by Gunnar Jorgensen. Five pitches later, Brock Hopkins doubled, scoring Kneifl and Jorgensen for the game's only runs.
Lakeview's only real threat came in the sixth, when a single, an error, a sacrifice bunt and a hit batter loaded the bases with two outs. Kneifl was able to get a strikeout to end the inning, then pitched a spotless seventh to finish off the complete-game three-hit shutout.
Toby Braun had Wayne's other hit in the win over Lakeview, and Kneifl struck out eight and walked two to get the win.
Wayne, 20-4-1, closes out the regular season at home Tuesday against South Sioux City before beginning area tournament action Saturday in Valley.