HASTINGS, Neb. — Emporia Post 5 put itself in the driver’s seat to advance in the Mid-South Regional against Hastings Five Points Bank Thursday afternoon.
However, the host team had better things in mind when it trailed 6-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning.
Over the next two frames, Hastings put the pressure on Post 5, erasing its five-run deficit to force extra innings with the season on the line.
In the bottom of the ninth, Hastings got a walk-off single to end Post 5’s season, 7-6.
“That’s a great baseball team,” Post 5 head coach Anthony Markowitz said. “We were playing some decent defense there for awhile. Unfortunately, they kept putting pressure on us. We couldn’t hold them back for that long. It was a great game played between two great teams.
“Unfortunately, one team gets to win.”
Hunter Groh gave Post 5 a 1-0 advantage in the second with an RBI triple. Hastings knotted things up in the third on a sacrifice fly.
Then, Emporia was able to get some separation from Hastings.
In the fourth, Groh drove in a pair with a single and John Miller had a sacrifice fly to make it 4-1.
Kadyn Williams had an RBI single and scored on a passed ball to give Emporia a 6-1 advantage through four-and-a-half.
In the Hastings’ fifth, a one-out walk and a single put two aboard. After a lineout, Hastings got three consecutive RBI singles to pull back within two.
“We were just taking the approach of getting outs and trying to keep the lead and extend the game,” Markowitz said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t score the next inning after they scored. If we could’ve answered back with a little bit of pressure with a run or two, I think the game’s different.”
Post 5 went 1-2-3 in the top of the sixth, with the momentum swinging toward Hastings.
A single and walk were driven in on a 2-run double to knot things up at six.
Hastings had an opportunity to win the game in the seventh, but Emporia was able to get out of the threat.
When Hayden Baumwart reached 100 pitches after six innings, Markowitz went to Jace Stewart to try and hold Hastings at bay.
“Hayden pitched his tail off,” Markowitz said. “Jace came in and did a great job behind him. We were going to throw the top two guys that we had available. Those guys across the field did a great job too.”
The two teams each had two runners aboard in the eighth, but left them stranded.
Emporia was retired in order in the ninth, forced to stop Hastings once more.
Four batters later, the season ended for Post 5.
Stewart took the loss on the mound in relief, allowing one run on seven hits with a strikeout.
Groh went 3-for-4 at the plate with three RBIs, while Williams was 2-for-3 with an RBI.
Emporia finishes the summer with a 34-4 record. Post 5 won the Sam Ellis Classic for the first time since 2012, won a state championship and made an appearance in a regional tournament for the first time since 2011.
A majority of this year’s group have had some memorable moments over the past three summers. In 2017, the group won Emporia’s first-ever state championship at the Class A level, was a semifinalist in the Class AAA State Tournament a year ago and now they can add this to the list of accomplishments.
“It’s the kids (and) the success they’ve had,” Markowitz said. “How well they did, how close knit they are, how they stuck with each other through a lot of tough times (and) how proud they make people.
“It’s been a great group. Before them, they had great guys to show them the way. This program is just as much about those guys who played last year or two years ago. It’s about them. Those guys showed them the way and then it’s on their shoulders to continue what those guys showed them. They reached what those guys showed them and they exceeded (it). These guys set the bar for a lot of younger guys. You have to continue to show some younger guys along the way, surpass the ceiling and the keep pushing the ceiling up.”