Lopers fail to capitalize on chances
Central Oklahoma scored five runs over the final three innings to erase a 4-1 deficit and beat UNK, 6-4, in an MIAA tournament elimination game, bringing the program to an end after 58 years during the modern era.
"Time heals all wounds. That's what everyone keeps telling me," said head coach Damon Day. "I can't thank all the people back in Kearney enough for all their support, but I'll never heal from this. I don't think those boys will ever heal from this.
"That's what life's about. You're going to pick yourself up. 'If you can look up, you can get up,' as coach (Kevin) Lofton likes to say, and we're going to do that. We're going to pick ourselves up by the boot straps. We're all going to be better people for it."
UNK had two innings come to an end with the bases loaded and a third with two runners on. All but two innings saw at least one Loper base runner stranded as UNK only managed seven hits but they left a dozen runners on base. Central Oklahoma was much better with their opportunities, garnering 11 hits and only leaving eight on base.
The Lopers had a chance in the final at-bat. Ty Roseberry, who was hitting in the seven-hole after a late season swoon, came to the plate with two runners on and two outs, but struck out on three straight pitches, the second time he went down on strikes in the game.
Alex Achtermann, recently named the MIAA Player of the Year, threw 7.1 innings for UNK, giving up four earned runs on eight hits while striking out four. Fatigue may have been a factor for Achtermann in the seventh inning when the Bronchos got four hits and scored two runs. Central Oklahoma had a couple of runners in scoring position as well before Achtermann got Paul Kropf, the designated hitter batting from the three-hole, to pop up to catcher Dallas Schramm.
Head coach Damon Day pulled Achtermann with one out in the top of the eighth after giving up a single. Brock Ruminer came on to pinch run and stole second, and from there, it was Eric Sandoz (0.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R) who came on in relief. With Ruminer also stealing third and Taylor Avila stealing second after being plunked by Sandoz, Xavier Freeman (2 of 4, 3 RBI, HR) hit a two-run single to left, putting the Bronchos on top, 5-4. Freeman also had a solo home run in the seventh off Achtermann.
The Loper offense did most of its damage in the fourth inning. It started with a couple of singles by Josh Robinson (1 for 3, 2 BB, R) and Scott Platt (2 for 4, R). Roseberry (0 of 4, BB, R) reached on a fielder's choice on a throwing error, allowing Robinson to score from second base. After a Calvin Rudolph (0 for 3) walk, Peter Carlson (0 of 2, RBI) hit a sacrifice fly to center for a second run. Brandon Hernandez (1 of 4, RBI, BB) capped the inning with a bases loaded walk to plate Roseberry. The Lopers still had the bases loaded for Achtermann, but he struck out swinging as Landon Bond was brought in by UCO to face his only batter of the day.
The Broncos bullpen was tremendously effective, with five pitchers combining to throw 5.1 innings of shutout baseball and only allow three hits between them.