With no spring season and a summer schedule that began about a month later than normal, it was destined to be an interesting baseball season for Lincoln’s American Legion teams.
That was apparent at the city tournament, where most of Lincoln’s teams finished their seasons over the course of an eight-day event. Notably absent from the tournament was Carpet Land (Lincoln East), which put together a record of 20-7 and won the Cornhusker Classic in Omaha.
The Legion season was not immune to the forces of the world around it. Carpet Land shut down its season on July 15 after a pair of players tested positive for COVID-19. The virus also hit Pinnacle Bank (Lincoln Southwest) before the season started, forcing the team to miss the first two weeks of the schedule.
While JC Brager (Lincoln Southeast) and Union Bank (Lincoln Pius X) entered the city tournament with winning records, Pinnacle Bank beat both teams on its way to a somewhat surprising city championship.
“The growth of some of our team leaders through the early season losses will be something I look back on as a very special part of this season,” Pinnacle Bank head coach Mitch Vernon said. “… Just thought a few things were missing throughout the season and we seemed to have clicked at the right time.”
No matter the team, the shortened Legion season and the city tournament still provided plenty of opportunities for memorable moments. Sampson Construction (Lincoln High) was winless at the city tournament, but its season highlight came earlier in the season, when third baseman Dylan McNeil’s emphatic celebration of a triple went viral online.
Judds Brothers (Lincoln Northeast) also struggled to string together wins consistently, with the exception of when pitching ace Cody Bruss took the mound. He won both of his starts in the city tournament and threw a five-inning perfect game to end the team’s season on Wednesday.
Judds Brothers head coach Kyle Parker said he appreciated the additional games from the city tournament and the experience it gave his players.
“What I’ll remember most is how positive these guys were able to stay even when things got rough,” Parker said. “They never turned on each other or myself, they always supported each other and pulled for one another.”
And while tournament favorites JC Brager and Union Bank might be disappointed with their season-ending performance, there was still plenty to be happy about over the course of the season. Union Bank started the season 6-0 and won the Battle of Omaha Tournament. JC Brager managed a tournament win of its own in the Mike Peterson/Coach K Tournament.
In that tournament, JC Brager made a dramatic six-run comeback in the bottom of the seventh inning to advance to the title game, which it won comfortably. That was part of a 14-game winning streak that nearly lasted three weeks.
“We accomplished a lot and really went above the expectations I had for the summer season,” JC Brager head coach Montana Jones said. “They went through something that no other group has gone through and to see how they handled this adversity made me so proud to call myself their coach. It's definitely a group I will never forget.”
H Cooper Wesslund, Anderson Ford
H Jackson Oerman, Chick-Fil-A
H Jackson Doty, JC Brager
H Mason Masur, JC Brager
H Daustin Manske, Judds Brothers
H Tyler Sass, Pinnacle Bank
H Ethan Morrow, Pinnacle Bank
H Dylan McNeil, Sampson Construction
H Jase Woita, Union Bank
P Bradyn Hasenpflug, Anderson Ford
P Andrew Lofgren, Chick-Fil-A
P Cody Bruss, Judds Brothers