WAVERLY — It might not have all gone according to plan, but Waverly is back in the Eastern Midlands Conference baseball championship.
The Class B No. 4 Vikings saw a 6-1 lead dwindle down to 6-5 in the top of the sixth inning, but Ian Lanik got a big out to get out of the jam. Then reliever Nolan Brown, an Omaha commit, closed out the game in the seventh against No. 7 Bennington as the Vikings advanced to the EMC title game for the second straight season.
“Nolan stepped up tonight and did his job just like he did last night for us,” Waverly coach Kyle Parker said. “He threw eight pitches last night and I think he threw seven tonight. He’s just big-time. He always wants the ball, and UNO is getting a really great player.”
An offensive outpouring from the Vikings over the first two innings made it seem like Brown’s services wouldn’t be needed to punch a ticket to Wednesday’s championship. The Vikings took advantage of a two-run error in the first inning to go with a Ben Carter RBI single and held a 3-1 lead after one inning.
Three more runs came in the second inning on a Bennington error followed by a two-run double by Brown off the right-field fence. Vikings starter Maverick Wylder kept the Badgers’ bats at bay over five innings while striking out seven and allowing two runs in the win.
“Maverick (Wylder) did awesome for us and he might go for a complete game if we make a couple plays for him,” Parker said. “He’s just a gamer. It’s really hard to pitch with the wind like it was today, but he found a way to settle in during the first and managed the rest of his innings.”
The Badgers' big comeback came in the top of the sixth inning when they pushed across three runs on three hits and two walks, but the combination of Lanik and Brown quelled the rally and ultimately led to the victory.
The win sends the Vikings on to Wednesday’s title game, where they’ll met No. 6 Norris, which beat Gretna 8-3 in their semifinal contest on Tuesday.
“It would mean a lot to win this conference because we have teams like Elkhorn, Norris and a lot of other teams that are coming up,” Parker added. “Bennington has a lot of talent and Gretna is competing in Class A, so it would be huge to win tomorrow.”
Waverly will host Norris at Lawson Park with first pitch slated for 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Norris 8, Gretna 3: Bryson Schultz gave Norris a strong start, pitching 5⅓ innings and allowing just one hit.
Norris (6-3) got its runs in clumps, with three in the third, two in the fourth and three in the sixth, while Gretna (6-4) didn't get on the scoreboard until the seventh.
Tyler Monroe went 2-for-2 with a double and three RBIs for Norris, and Joel Benes drove in two more runs.