PAPILLION — When top-ranked Waverly only pushed two runs across the plate over the first two innings while stranding four runners, it started to feel like an omen.
After a four-run third inning from the Hastings Tigers, it was official.
Missteps in the field and blunders on the base paths defined the game for the Vikings on Monday evening at Werner Park. Waverly just couldn’t recover as the Tigers advanced in the Class B state baseball tournament’s winner’s bracket with a 5-2 victory.
“We could’ve had a four- or five-run lead in the second inning and that really caught up to us,” Waverly coach Kyle Parker said. “On Saturday, it was the same thing and we were lucky to get through then. Hastings caught up to us and made plays.”
The Vikings looked dangerous early in the game as they loaded the bases with one out in the first. After pushing one run across, a ground ball caught a Waverly runner to send everyone back one base. The Tigers got out of the inning one batter later with the damage limited.
In the third inning, the Vikings had two on and no one out after doubling their lead on a Thatcher Kozal RBI single to right field. The Hastings defense once again worked itself out of a jam with a fielder’s choice double play and a fly out.
The momentum from limiting the Vikings' offense carried over in the bottom of the inning when the Tigers exploded for four runs, ultimately winning them the game. With the two-run lead, Hastings starter Jacob Schroeder settled in on the mound. The junior fired three scoreless innings to propel the Tigers in the winner’s bracket.
Connor Creech earned the save in the seventh.
“(Schroeder getting out of those jams) was huge; it lets him know that he doesn’t have to strike everybody out, the defense can make big plays for you,” Hastings' Blake Marquardt said. “We made a diving catch down the third baseline, then made another great throw home then ended up in a double play. We can make plays and it can really swing the momentum of the game.”
The loss sends Waverly into the loser’s bracket, where they’ll face Elkhorn Tuesday night at Fricke Field in an elimination contest.
“We have 15 seniors so we just have to ask them how they want their season to end,” Parker said. “Our offense and pitching that we have left, we still have a pretty good shot but it’s just about doing those little things right that we aren’t doing right now.”
Hastings advances to play Bennington after the Badgers handled Norris 11-1 in five innings. First pitch is set for 7 p.m. at Werner Park.
Elkhorn 11, Omaha Concordia/BT/OC 0: Gannon Gragert went 2-for-3 with a homer and four RBIs and Kyler Beekman added three hits to lift the Antlers in a Class B elimination game.
Concordia/Brownell Talbot/Omaha Christian's season ends at 14-7. Elkhorn (13-11) will take on Waverly on Tuesday at 7 p.m.