COZAD – The Pinnacle Bank Seniors played a tight game with the Cozad Reds, to start the game. As is a trend with this year’s Seniors team, they have been starting games strong, and often finishing them strong, but struggle with a soft, gooey middle of the game and fall too far behind to recover.
The same was true of Thursday’s game with Cozad as the Lexington boys opened the game with a three run lead and allowing just two runs in the bottom of the first.
Cozad took the lead in the bottom of the third, scoring two runs, to bring the game to 3-4.
Lexington found themselves in good scoring position in the top of the fifth inning, as Cozad Pitcher Spencer Pleschourt walked the first two batters, John Howard and Draake Taylor. Daniel Kuefner picked his first pitch to send a ground ball to Cozad shortstop Maddux Myer, who errored, allowing Kuefner to take first base and Howard scored a run to even the score, 4-4. In the confusion, Taylor took residence at third base while Kuefner posted on second.
Austin Stewart took the plate and on an 0-2 count sent a sacrifice gounder to first base, sending Taylor home and giving Lexington a 5-4 lead.
Efren Aguirre, on an 0-2 count, took a swing on a wide pitch that hit the back-stop. He beat the ball to first, taking a base on a dropped third strike and Kuefner went home for a sixth run for the Lexington Seniors.
The top of the fifth inning ended with a fly ball, hit by Vinny Leibert and Mason Tilford struck out at the plate, swinging.
After taking a 6-4 lead over Cozad, the Pinnacle Bank boys allowed five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Lexington’s scoring went dry in the top of the sixth before allowing another five runs in the bottom of the inning, bringing the game to an early end, 6-14.
“The ball didn’t fall but these guys probably hit the ball, today, better than they have all season,” said Lexington head coach Vince Leibert after the game. “We did make contact with a lot of balls, not placed well but a lot of contact.”
Coach Leibert’s assessment of their contact in the game is proven by Lexington’s quality at-bats, totaling nine, just four fewer than Cozad’s 13. Ending the innings, Lexington left five runners on base in Thursday’s game.
The looming trouble for Lexington arrived late in the game, the bottom of the fifth, when the Pinnacle Banks Seniors were plagued by errors.
“I feel like we were in control of this game until the fifth inning,” Coach Leibert concurred. “The errors creep up on us and then it becomes a mental game. To be honest, we’re not yet strong enough to win a mental game. We’re just not there, yet.”
Lexington’s Seniors held the lead twice in Thursday’s game, and the game ended early on runs. They started strong with a 3-2 lead at the end of the first inning, and took a two run lead, 6-4, in the top of the fifth. Their talent and skill is evident.
Somewhere in-between they lose their composure.
Coach Leibert believes the answer is in anticipation of preventable circumstances.
“These guys have been in this position a lot of times,” he explained. “They look for the next thing to go wrong. At some point, we have to get over that, stop looking for things to go wrong, be happy with success and using that as motivation instead of waiting for something bad to happen.
When asked about the positives in Thursday’s game Coach Leibert said, “Some things in the batting order, for once. We had a couple guys get on base and then a guy hit them in. That happened a couple times. Some things in the order worked better today. A lot of times we get a guy to second or third and we can’t get them home, but tonight we got them in.”
Coach Leibert picked starting pitcher and second baseman Vinny Leibert at his VIP player for the game with Cozad.
“Vinny started on the mound and he gave up some tall shots and a couple base hits, but held them down really well,” Coach Leibert said. “He’s starting to really hit the ball. He’s one of those guys that starts off with about a .120 average and ends the season around .400. So he’s turning the corner with the bat today, too.”
Vinny Leibert saw three at-bats, and made contact with the ball in all three plate appearances. The first resulted in a double that put Efren Aguirre in position to score Lexington’s third run. He grounded out to short stop in his second at-bat and his third at-bat was a flyout in right field.
Despite some trouble in being able to mentally close a game, Coach Leibert is still impressed with the growth of the Lexingtion Legion teams.
“Looking at this team, I don’t think anyone can realize the repetition in practice they have done just to get this far,” He said. “They’ve probably played more baseball in practices, this season, than they have in the past several years. It shows for five innings, we just have to get over the mental hurdle.”