Challenged for the first time in 10 games, the Concordia Panthers persevered.
Concordia, which had reeled off 10 consecutive wins by 10 or more runs, scored in the bottom of the seventh inning to get past Nemaha Valley 6-5 in the semifinals of the Class 4A baseball regional tournament Monday night at the Concordia Sports Complex.
The Panthers had to overcome six errors, and battle back from 5-4 down to advance to the regional championship game, and keep alive its hopes for a second straight trip to the state tournament.
“I thought we showed some perseverance. At the start of the game we came out kind of tight and didn’t make plays that come routinely,” Concordia coach Brandt Hutchinson said.
Concordia (16-2) will play Rock Creek in the title game Wednesday night in Wamego.
Rock Creek defeated Holton 3-2 in the first round and Wamego 5-2 in the other semifinal on Monday.
Concordia advanced to the semifinals by shutting out Clay Center 15-0 in the first round.
Nemaha Valley defeated Abilene, 9-4.
Trailing 5-4, The Panthers tied the game with a run in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Tanner Gilbert, leading off the bottom of the seventh, singled with two out.
Hutchinson called for Derek Pearson to bunt, but then took it off when the first pitch was a ball.
When Dustin Rottinghaus threw a second straight ball, Hutchinson put the bunt back on.
Pearson laid down the bunt, and Nemaha Valley catcher Josh Schraad threw the ball away allowing Gilbert to score all the way from first base for the winning run.
“He made a beautiful bunt,” Hutchinson said.
Concordia got on the board first when Drake Hake walked, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a ground ball by Nathan Gieber in the bottom of the first inning.
Two Concordia errors helped Nemaha Valley score three runs in the top of the second inning.
The Panthers loaded the bases in the bottom of the second when Gilbert reached base on an error and Pearson and Hake walked.
Jordan Mehl was hit by a pitch to force home Gilbert to make it 3-2.
Nemaha Valley scored two runs on one hit and three errors in the top of the fourth inning to go up 5-2.
Concordia answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning.
Gilbert got things started with a walk and Pearson doubled.
Will Strommen singled home the first run in the inning.
A ground ball by Hake got pinch runner Ethan Bechard home, and it was 5-4.
Two Nemaha Valley miscues allowed Concordia to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Mehl reached base on an error to start the inning. He moved to second on a bunt by Trevor Nordell and went to third on a wild pitch.
A fly ball by Gieber got the tying run home.
The Panthers then scored the winning run in the seventh.
“We had respect for Nemaha Valley. We knew they were going to be a good team,” Hutchinson said, “We just need to cut down on the errors, and we will. We will in the finals, we will play looser.”
Gieber pitched three and a third scoreless innings to get the win. He gave up three hits, struck out eight and didn’t walk any.
Mehl allowed five unearned runs on three hits and walked two.
Gilbert had two hits and scored three runs.
Gieber drove in two runs.
Concordia cruised past Clay Center in the opening round.
The Panthers got out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning.
Nordell singled and scored on a triple by Gieber.
An error allowed Gieber to score.
Strommen singled on a ground ball from Nordell in the second inning to put the Panthers up 3-0.
Concordia then sent 13 batters to the plate and scored 10 runs in the third inning.
Hittle tripled with the bases loaded to drive in three runs.
Strommen had a two-run single and knocked in a run with a fly ball.
The Panthers scored a run in the bottom of the fourth inning to end the game because of the 15-run rule.
Blane Payeur singled and scored on a base hit by Gieber.
Braden Johnson pitched all four innings to get the win. He gave up eight hits, struck out one and didn’t walk any.
Concordia scored 15 runs on 10 hits.
Mehl had three hits and scored three runs.
Strommen was 2-for-3 at the plate with three runs batted in. He scored two runs.
Nordell and Hittle drove in three runs each.
Gieber knocked in two runs.