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July 19--NORFOLK -- The Columbus Cornerstone Insurance Group Seniors American Legion baseball team knew exactly what it was up against in Grand Island Home Federal pitcher Calvin Hehnke Saturday in Norfolk.
Hehnke, who led Grand Island to a 10-1 win earlier in the season over Columbus, dazzled again Saturday for an 18-0 win in the A6 Senior Nebraska American Legion Baseball Area Tournament.
"We knew we had our work cut out for us," Columbus head coach Tom Keiser said. "He had a good plan for us."
Hehnke's dominating performance on the mound was backed up nicely by the Grand Island offense, which put up run support in the first inning.
"They put up runs right away in the first inning and gave him a cushion," Keiser said. "We couldn't string together enough runners, but give Hehnke credit."
The Columbus Seniors were held to five hits in the game from Cade Hansen, Nathan Sliva, Miles Putnam, Tucker Ramaekers and Tyler Morton.
Still, Keiser knows his team will be able to move past Saturday's loss.
"We should be upset by the way today went and we are, but this is a group that has been able to see the bigger picture," Keiser said. "This is as tough as a team as we've played. If you're still thinking about this when you wake up tomorrow, you're in trouble."
Jesse Carias took the loss for Columbus. The Seniors used two other pitchers in relief, but Keiser feels strong about the arms left in the rotation.
"I feel confident in what we have available with our pitchers," Keiser said.
Now, Columbus will play with its season on the line for the next game in the tournament in the loser's bracket.
Though Keiser admits the pressure definitely builds around a team in a do-or-die situation, he doesn't try to change the approach.
"We try not to change it too much," he said. "We just want to go out, play every single pitch. Whether things are going our way or things aren't going our way, we want to make sure we got our foot on the gas and playing the entire time. The mental and physical aspect gets heightened by the situation, but we want to focus on playing our game."
Columbus will play the winner of Norfolk and Grand Island U-Save, which was not concluded before time of press Saturday evening.
Because of a rain out earlier in the season, Keiser doesn't know a lot about Grand Island U-Save, but knows the challenges Norfolk would bring.
"They're frisky," he said. "They're the team that can spoil someone's tournament. They're athletic and they're old, which is something a lot of teams have on us."
Saturday at Norfolk
Grand Island -- 18 15 0
Columbus (8-14) -- 0 5 1
-- Pitching: WP -- Calvin Hehnke; LP -- Jesse Carias
-- Columbus Leading Hitters: Cade Hansen 1-2; Nathan Sliva 1-3; Miles Putnam 1-3; Tucker Ramaekers 1-3; Tyler Morton 1-3
NORFOLK -- Playing a full nine innings in the A6 Senior Nebraska American Legion Baseball Area Tournament is a little worrisome to Columbus Cornerstone Insurance Group Seniors head coach Tom Keiser.
Good thing for him, the fourth-seeded Columbus Seniors broke out of the first round in seven innings after a 13-3 win over fifth-seeded South Sioux City.
"Without a doubt (it was a relief)," Keiser said. "It shows our kids kept their foot on the gas. It really makes you feel better going into a double elimination tournament."
Columbus, which is down to 10 available players, used 12 hits to overpower South Sioux City Friday.
"I thought we had some really good at bats," Keiser said. "All the way through, from top to bottom, we really threatened the defense. We put the ball in play. I'm very pleased with the offensive effort today both mentally and physically."
Though South Sioux City was able to piece together 11 hits throughout the game, Columbus' Miles Putnam and Dylan Benne held firm on the mound.
"Miles and Dylan -- both of them gave up a decent amount of hits, but to their credit, with the wind blowing out, they did a good job of limiting the number of doubles and triples," Kesier said. "I don't feel like they squared up on a lot of balls. We can live with that."
South Sioux City was able to take advantage offensively early, grabbing a 2-0 lead after two and a half innings.
But once Columbus had a feel for South Sioux City's pitcher, it began to zone in at the plate.
With two runners on base, Putnam launched a three-run home run to give Columbus the lead for good.
"Then we never looked back," Keiser said. "We took a couple of innings, but its not like we went through the lineup twice and were struggling. Sometimes it takes more than one at bat. I thought they did a good job of grinding out tough at bats."
Columbus eventually piled on 10 more runs to coast for the win.
Putnam picked up the win on the mound and went 2-for-3 at the plate with a home run.
Nathan Sliva also hit a home run in the win, while going 3-for-5 at the plate.
Blake Bubak, Tyler Morton and Tucker Ramaekers each recorded a pair of hits for Columbus as well.
"The credit goes to the entire team," Keiser said. "The offensive did their work and put runs on the board and Dylan and Miles did the work on the mound."
Now, the Columbus Seniors can give a bit of sigh of relief, knowing today's game against Grand Island Home Federal is not a do-or-die situation.
Grand Island, the top-seeded team in the tournament, has beat the Columbus Seniors twice in a doubleheader earlier in the season
"We know they're the toughest team in our district and they're the No. 1 team in our district for a reason," Keiser said. "They have a lot of depth and play the game the right way. We're going to go out and we're going to see to see what can happen. Our focus is to make it to the state tournament and we're going to see if we can do that."
Friday at Norfolk
South Sioux City -- 3 11 6
Columbus (8-13) -- 13 12 0
-- Pitching: WP -- Miles Putnam; LP -- Davidson
-- Columbus Leading Hitters: Nathan Sliva 3-5, HR; Miles Putnam 2-3, HR; Blake Bubak 2-4; Tyler Morton 2-4; Tucker Ramaekers 2-4; Zach McDuffee 1- 3; Cade Hansen 0-0, 2 BB, HBP
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