Longhorns fall in regional title to Lyons, 6-0
By KEVIN THOMPSON
By KEVIN THOMPSON
HOLCOMB — Just to be in the regional title baseball game could have been enough for the Holcomb Longhorns.
But after they knocked off top-seed Hays-TMP earlier in the afternoon, 1-0, they had their hopes set on taking the Class 3A regional title.
Standing in their way was Lyons, the defending regional champion, who disposed of Lakin in the second semifinal game, 3-1.
But that's where the Longhorn's story ended, as Lyons hitters fed on the Longhorn pitching, taking a 6-1 win and earning a return trip to state.
Holcomb ace Conner VanCleave had already pitched his allotted 12 innings in two days, so it was pitching by committee in the finals.
Logan Zahn started, and Colby Casaus took over in the third. By then, the Lions were already up 6-0, while Lyons pitcher Jacob Buckman had faced the minimum nine batters.
Lyons sent seven batters to the plate in the third, scoring first on a double, then two runs on errors, and another on a sacrifice fly.
Buckman appeared to be on cruise control until the seventh inning, when Christian Merz beat out an infield hit, VanCleave singled past first to send Merz to third, and a balk call brought in Holcomb's first run.
After a strikeout, Lane Penick singled to right to put runners at the corners. But Buckman got his fourth strikeout of the game and a pop up to end the Longhorns' season.
For Holcomb coach Todd VanCleave, it was a good start to the day in the semifinal.
"Conner pitched a great game, but the other guys played great behind him. We got the timely hitting when we needed it, and got the run when we needed it," he said. "That's what's important."
The semifinal win was a different story from the title game when Holcomb took care of the state's ninth-ranked team in 3A.
VanCleave picked up where he left off Monday in the quarterfinals. The freshman pitched a shutout against the top seed.
Holcomb scored the lone run of the game in the sixth inning. Alex Ortega led off with a single, stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch, and Merz drilled a double to score Ortega.
Three times TMP had a runner on third with a triple, and three times they failed to score. In the second and fourth innings, VanCleave struck out the final two batters to get out of the inning.
The Longhorns committed no errors in the win. VanCleave struck out eight and walked just one.
"That's a big win for these guys," coach VanCleave said. "They weren't expected by a lot to do that. I'm very proud of them. They worked hard all year."
Making it to the finals was a good lesson for Holcomb.
They have no seniors, and VanCleave likes his juniors' leadership, and the talent coming from the younger grades.
"The future of Holcomb baseball looks pretty good," he said.
Holcomb had the disadvantage of playing three games in this tournament versus Lyons' two. That meant throwing VanCleave in the first two games, but not having him in the title game.
"We talked all year about how important it is to get wins when we could early in the season because a seed was going to make a difference in the tournament," coach VanCleave said. "I don't think they understood what we were talking about at the time, but I think they do now."
Zahn and Casaus pitched decently in the second game. Shortstop Calen Rupp left the first game after injuring his knee sliding into second in the fifth inning.
Getting guys to step into roles in an important game is all part of the experience, coach VanCleave said.
"We had a lot of untimely errors," he added. "They didn't play bad — they just happened at the wrong time."
But playing through the end, and threatening to score late was a good sign for the future, he said.
"Our boys came out and did their job. You can't ask for anything more," he said.
Holcomb finishes its season at 11-10.
Lyons 6, Holcomb 0
Holcomb (11-10) 000 000 1 -- 1 4 2
Lyons (16-5) 204 000 X -- 6 6 0
Zahn, Casaus (3) and Mongeau; Buckman and Nave. WP--Buckman. LP--Zahn. 2B--Lyons (McClure), Lakin (Mongeau). LOB--Holcomb 2, Lyons 2.
Game 1 semifinal
Holcomb 1, Hays-TMP 0
Holcomb (11-9) 000 001 0 -- 1 6 0
TMP (16-6) 000 000 0 -- 0 6 2
VanCleave and Mongeau; Brin and Gottschalk. WP--VanCleave. LP--Brin. 3B--TMP (Gottschalk, Schippers, Stults). LOB--Holcomb 5, TMP 7.
Game 2 semifinal
Lakin's season ended in the second semifinal game, a 3-1 loss to Lyons.
The Broncs held last year's regional champs to no runs in five innings, but it was a productive third that propelled the Lions to their win.
With two outs in the third, Lyons got on base with consecutive singles, and Ryan McClure drove in the first run before Brady Kirkhart hit a double to drive in the next two.
Lakin got its lone run in the sixth on an RBI triple by Brandon Miller.
Kirkhart struck out six in six innings, giving up just two hits.
McClure struck out the side in the seventh to record the save.
"We had guys on. We just didn't get hits with two outs," Lakin coach Steve Davidson said. "If we could have got a couple of those runs across, it could have made a difference. They made some great plays defensively."
Lyons got their runs on the one big hit, he said, and the Broncs made most defensive plays.
"We just didn't put the ball in play enough," Davidson said.
Lakin finishes its season at 14-8.
Lakin (14-8) 000 001 0 -- 0 2 0
Lyons (15-5) 003 000 X -- 3 10 0
Yakel and Armstrong; Kirkhart, McClure (7) and Nave. WP--Kirkhart. LP--Yakel. 2B--Lyons (Kirkhart). 3B--Lyons (Ri. Pray); Lakin (Miller). LOB--Lakin 6, Lyons 6.