Wakefield Post 91 Seniors headed to state
O’NEILL — It isn’t always how you start, but how you finish that’s most important.
The Wakefield Post 81 Seniors trailed Columbus Lakeview 5-0 in the first game of Monday’s Class B, Area 5 tournament at Fred Appelby Field. As the only undefeated team left in the double-elimination tournament, they had a game in hand but struggled to get any momentum going against third-seeded Lakeview.
Wakefield was able to make a game of the first matchup, losing 7-6, but found themselves down 4-2 in the winner-take-all second game before coming through with a huge sixth inning.
Wakefield Post 81, which includes players from Wayne, Allen and Emerson, blew up for six runs in the bottom of the sixth, coming from behind to post an 8-4 win and earn a trip to the American Legion Class B Seniors state tournament, where they will face host Gering.
“It was a must-win game and it was nice to see our guys not giving up and they fought all the way to the end,” coach Kody Larson said of the Post 81 Seniors’ wild night.
In the opener, Lakeview built a 5-0 lead before Wakefield scored two in the fifth and three more in the sixth, the latter coming on a bases-clearing triple by Justin Erb to tie the game at 5-5. Lakeview came back with two in the bottom of the sixth to take the lead for good, as a seventh-inning comeback by the Post 91 Seniors fell one run short with the tying run in scoring position.
Lakeview built a 4-2 lead off Wakefield starter Josh Lutt going into the sixth inning, but the Post 91 Seniors had one more comeback in them.
Two walks and a single loaded the bases for Erb, who slashed a two-run double down the left field line to tie the game at 4-4.
“He had a huge pinch hit in both games and really kind of set the tone to get our offense clicking again and score some runs,” Larson said.
A communication error on a pickoff attempt at third brought two more runs home to give Wakefield the lead, and Esgar Godinez followed with an RBI triple and came home on a wild pitch to make it 7-4. Three batters later, Hagan Miller hit a ground ball that hit the pitcher’s mound and bounced in the air, forcing Lakeview to make an errant throw that brought the final run of the inning home.
Julio Sanchez led the Wakefield attack with four hits, while Godinez and Trevor DeBoer each had two hits. Lutt pitched the win for the Post 81 Seniors.
Lutt, DeBoer and Miller were three key players last year for the Wayne American Legion Post 43 Juniors’ run to a state championship, and Larson said all three have been key to the Post 81 Seniors’ success so far this year.
“Those three are definitely among our leaders,” Larson said. “They play the game the right way and you can tell (Wayne coach Adam) Hoffman does a great job with them.”
Official scheduling for the Class B state tournament was not available at press time, but it is expected that Wakefield’s matchup with the host team will be a Saturday evening matchup. The double-elimination tournament runs through Wednesday.
“It’s going to be a long drive, but it’s definitely worth it for as hard as these guys have worked this year,” Larson added. “We’ll take one more trip together and see what happens.”