The Abilene Rebels baseball team traveled to Liberal last Thursday for the Kansas Babe Ruth 16-18 State Tournament, and finished on Monday with a fourth place finish. This year it was a round-robin format with seven teams. Each team played four games (did not play two teams). Teams also in the tournament were Grant County (Ulysses), Haven, Independence, Liberal, Parsons, and Wellington. Abilene opened up the tournament with a win over Grant County on Friday 8-1. Saturday morning, the Rebels dominated Independence 11-0 in five innings and then lost to Liberal Saturday evening 6-2. Sunday’s scheduled 8pm game with Parsons was postponed due to a thunderstorm that dropped about an inch of rain on the field. Round-robin games resumed Monday morning with the completion of the Wellington vs. Liberal game which was followed by Abilene and Parsons. Abilene would lose the game with Parsons, which was basically only for seeding, 7-3. The top four seeds advanced to bracket play and the Rebels would be the number four seed and take on the number one seed Liberal. In a really good game, Abilene would come up short in the semi-final 2-0.
In the game with Grant County, Abilene got rolling in the fourth inning with six runs five hits, a sacrifice, a walk, and an error. Alex Fetters hit a two-RBI double and Trey Hoerner had an RBI triple in the inning. Singles came from Trenton Jurgensen, Keaton Hocker, and Cade Mills. Bryce Riekeman had the RBI sacrifice. The Rebels added to their lead in the fourth inning with two more runs with two outs. Fetters reached on an error and scored. Then two consecutive singles followed from Hoerner and Riekeman followed by a RBI double from Hocker for the 8-0 lead. Grant County scored their lone run in the sixth inning after the lead-off batter in the inning was hit by a pitch and scored on a double.
“It took us just a bit to get going as we tried to get used to the starting pitcher’s odd delivery,” said Abilene Head Coach Billy Hansen. “After one time through the lineup, we started seeing the ball better and hitting it hard. We got a nice start out of Keaton on the mound and Bret (Ambrosier) finished it up. We had some really nice defensive plays in our outfield too, with Cade making a diving catch at the left field fence. It’s always good to get that first game win.”
On the mound for Abilene, Hocker got the start tossing five and two-thirds innings striking out four, walked three, hit one batter, allowed two hits, and no runs. Ambrosier threw the final two and one-third innings striking out one, walked none, hit one batter, and allowed one earned run. Offensively for the Rebels, Hocker went 2-3 with a run scored, a stolen base, and a RBI. Fetters was 2-4 with two runs scored and two RBI. Hoerner also went 2-2 for two runs scored and had one RBI. Noah Wildman, Jurgensen, Riekeman, and Mills each had a hit in the contest.
Game two with Independence saw Abilene get a really nice game from starting pitcher Glen Friederich with good defense behind him. Independence never got anything going offensively in the contest. Abilene opened up their scoring in the fourth inning with four runs, started off by a triple from Fetters, the came a RBI double from Hoerner. Mills and Richie Clemente each had a hit in the inning with Clemente driving in two. The Rebels added seven runs in the fifth inning on six hits and two walks with Clemente and Jurgensen driving in two runs each. Wildman and Mills also had RBI singles in the inning for the 11-0 run-rule win.
“Glen pitched a heck of a game for us and helped us beat a pretty good team in this game,” said Hansen. “We also hit the ball really well (11 hits in the game).”
On the mound for the Rebels, Friederich went the distance in only throwing 56 pitches in the five-inning victory while striking out five, walked none, hit one batter, allowed three hits, and no runs. Offensively for Abilene, Clemente went 3-3 with a run scored and four RBI. Mills was 2-3 with two runs scored and a RBI. Hoerner went 2-3 with a run scored and a RBI. Wildman, Jurgensen, Fetters, and Riekeman each had a hit and a run scored in the game.
Liberal came in as the defending State Champions and was the team to beat on their home field. The Rebels would get their chance in their third game, second of the day, on Saturday as one of the marquee games of the tournament. It was a tight game through four innings of play with neither team able to score a run. Abilene had a great chance at a score in their half of the third when Jurgensen reached on a walk but was caught stealing. Fetters then came up and belted a triple but was left stranded at third base. In the fifth inning, Liberal would get a lead-off walk and a pinch-runner would enter the game at first base. The Rebels attempted a pick-off at first base, but the throw was in the dirt and went to the fence down the right field line. The runner went from first to third and ended up scoring on a wild pitch. Liberal would add to their lead in the sixth inning with one out when they would get two consecutive singles, throw in a balk and a walk before Abilene would make a pitching change at a big spot in the game. Friederich came in and threw one pitch and got exactly what the Rebels wanted, a hard ground ball. It was hit right back at Friederich who turned to start a double play at second base but the catch was mishandled and everyone was safe. The next batter hit a bases clearing triple. The Rebels would get a couple of runs on the board in their last at-bat but it wouldn’t be enough, as they would lose 6-2.
“We were so close in this one. We should have had an early lead, but a missed sign cost us a chance at that,” said Hansen. “That mishandled double-play chance at second base was huge. We proved that we can play with a good team from a bigger school, but you can’t make many mistakes. We stranded 12 baserunners…12. Alex did enough on the mound to keep us in it before I had to take him out as we were watching pitch counts closely.”
On the mound for Abilene, Fetters got the start going four innings striking out two, walked three, allowed one hit, and no runs. Jurgensen came in for an inning and a third striking out one, walked two, hit a batter, allowed four hits, and three earned runs. Friederich pitched the final two-thirds of an inning striking out none, walked none, allowed one hit, and one earned run. Offensively for the Rebels, Wildman and Hocker both went 2-4 with the other hits in the game coming from Fetters, Mills, and Friederich. Abilene out-hit Liberal 7-6 in the contest.
In a really meaningless game, except for seeding-and if Abilene allowed 20 runs in the game (Independence would have made it to bracket play instead of Parsons), the Rebels would get down early and not be able to overcome the lead. Parsons jumped out to a 5-0 lead through two innings before Abilene would get back into the game with three runs in their half of the fourth on three hits, a couple of sacrifices, and a walk. Parsons would come up and add a run in the fifth inning after a couple of singles and an error. Then get another run in the sixth after a one-out triple and a sacrifice for the 7-3 win.
“We just weren’t in this game from the start. We got it close but then couldn’t string anything together,” Hansen said.
On the mound for the Rebels, Hocker got the start and went three innings before coming out with some arm soreness. He struck out none, walked six, allowed five hits, and five earned runs. Wildman tossed the final four innings striking out none, walked one, hit a batter, allowed five hits, and one earned run. Offensively for Abilene, Hocker went 1-1 with a run scored and two walks. Wildman was 3-4 and Riekeman went 1-2 with a run scored and a walk. The other singles came off the bats of Mills, Clemente, and Ambrosier. Abilene had eight hits to Parson’s 10.
Abilene would move on to bracket play as the number four seed and play the number one seed, Liberal in one of the semi-final matchups. The game would prove to be a pitching duel with both teams only allowing four hits. Abilene would get a couple of singles in their first at-bat but could not capitalize. Liberal would get on the scoreboard first in their half of the first inning after a lead-off single, an error, a stolen base, and another error. The most batters either team would send to the plate through five innings would be five, and that was in Abilene’s half of the second. But again, the Rebels could not score. Liberal went down in order in the second, third, and fourth innings. Liberal would add another run in their half of the sixth inning on three singles and a walk for the 2-0 win. Abilene had the infield in to try to prevent a run but one of the singles was blooped into shallow left field.
“What a pitching performance from Glen,” Hansen said. “He gave us everything he had, in one of the best games I have seen him throw. We were right there again, but just couldn’t push any runs across for Glen. We have seen much faster pitching than what Liberal threw at us, but they knew we could hit faster fastballs. We only had four strikeouts at the plate, but we just couldn’t find any holes. We put pressure on them, and you could see they weren’t used to it. I am so proud of the way we competed in this game and in this tournament for the most part.”
On the mound for Abilene, Friederich went the distance striking out five, walked two, allowed four hits, and one earned run. Offensively for the Rebels, Mills, Fetters, Riekeman, and Friederich had the hits.
“Thank you to the players who finished their baseball careers playing for the Abilene Baseball Club including Richie Clemente, Alex Fetters, Trey Hoerner, Trenton Jurgensen, Cade Mills, and Noah Wildman,” said Hansen. “Also, thank you to their families for their support and sacrifices over the years. It is much appreciated. We have some players who could come back, but we will see what happens.” Coach Hansen also wanted to thank Holm Automotive Center for the use of a van for transportation of the team to Liberal.
Abilene finishes the 2018 season with fourth place at the State Tournament (for the second year in a row-their third consecutive trip to the State Tournament), a District Four Championship (for the second year in a row), and a 24-5 record (the most wins since the 2009 team who also had 24).