Junior Blues open taking two of three
The Columbus Junior Blues won two of three over the weekend behind a pair of key performances from two starting pitchers.
Friday it was six strong innings from Tadan Bell that kept the Blues in the game long enough for the bats to wake up in extra innings. In the second half of a doubleheader on Saturday in North Platte, it was Caleb Van Dyke shutting down the opposition while his hitters took advantage of a an error-prone First Nationals defense.
North Platte kicked the ball around in both ends of the doubleheader but Columbus allowed 15 hits in the doubleheader opener and had to settle for a split and a 2-1 record in the first weekend of action.
The Blues are back on the field Wednesday in the first home game of the season, 5 p.m. against Hastings.
FRIDAY - JUNIOR BLUES 3, KEARNEY 1
Columbus starter Tadan Bell nearly went the distance while allowing just one earned run, striking out 10 and walking four. He earned a no decision despite those numbers when his offense was unable to produce a run until the sixth.
Regardless, Bell gave up his only run on three hits in the second before allowing just one hit over the next four innings.
He gave up his four walks during that span but pitched out of trouble each time.
After two leadoff singles in the second and a one-out single to make it 1-0 North Platte, Bell pitched out of two on, two out in the third, one on, one out in the fifth and two on, two out in the sixth.
He struck out the first two hitters in the third, gave up a walk and single but induced a ground ball to escape danger. In the fifth his one out walk was followed by a ground out and a fly out.
He again struck out the first two hitters in the sixth before back-to-back walks then ended the threat with a ground out to first.
In the top half of the sixth his teammates took him off the hook for a loss when Tanner Kobza reached on a one-out single, advanced on a ground out then scored on slow roller that was just slow enough for Van Dyke to get to first.
Blues hitters had gone 1 for 16 through the first five innings with two walks.
Bell handed the ball over to Tyson Groene who allowed two hits in two innings but no damage.
Columbus loaded the bases in the eighth and pushed two across on a double by Van Dyke.
Colin Flyr and Kobza both singled to start the frame then moved over on a walk to Drew Loosvelt.
Groene gave up a leadoff single in the bottom of the eighth but the picked up the win on a line out sandwiched around two fly balls.
“That game was kind of frustrating for us,” coach Jimmy Johnson said. “We were down 1-0 for a while and Tadan was pitching great for us. We put some bats together and finally scored a run on an infield hit and just hung around.”
SATURDAY - NORTH PLATTE 17, JUNIOR BLUES 8, 6 Inn. (GAME 1)
Columbus led 5-0 after its first at bat and 8-4 after three then gave up the next 13 straight runs.
Despite the eight runs, Columbus only had six hits due to five North Platte errors. The Junior Blues scored four of their five first-inning runs with two outs on an error, a fielder’s choice then a two-run single by Hunter Colegrove.
A leadoff double followed by a one-out single and two-out error gave North Platte two runs in the second. The First Nationals cut the difference to 5-4 in the third with two hits, a walk and a hit batter all with two outs.
The Blues jumped back out to a four run cushion 8-4 in the bottom half when Justin Gaston scored on a wild pitch with the bases loaded, Groene came in on a ground ball on the next play and Shon Brockhaus scored on another wild pitch in the next at bat.
North Platte then scored four in the fourth, three in the fifth and six in the sixth. The First Nationals piled up 11 hits, three walks and took advantage of an error, a hit batter and a dropped third strike.
“The biggest difference between that game and the next game, and they’re a good hitting team, but we got behind in counts and we just didn’t have any off speed we could throw for strikes,” Johnson said. “All they were thinking was fastball, they were getting those and they had several extra-base hits.”
SATURDAY - JUNIOR BLUES 6, NORTH PLATE 1 (GAME 2)
Just like the night before when the Blues earned their first win of the season on solid pitching performances from Bell and Groene it was Van Dyke’s turn this time. He went six innings allowing four hits, one earned run, struck out six and walked two.
Columbus bats built him a 6-0 lead before the First Nationals scratched across a run in the sixth.
Zrust then came on in the seventh, walked two but struck out one and stranded runners at second and first.
Van Dyke also scored the first run of the game after reaching in the second on an error then coming across three hitters later on a wild pitch. Bell made it 2-0 two hitters later on an error at shortstop.
Another error of the bat of Loosvelt in the fifth brought Flyr and Zrust across to make it 4-0. Zrust scored Colton Korth on a two-out single to left in the fifth.
Flyr scored again two hitters later following a walk then an error at short.
Two hit batters, a walk then a fielder’s choice gave North Platte its only run in the sixth.
“Caleb was amazing. He worked on top, kind of had his slurve going and was able to throw that for a strike consistently and kept them off balance,” Johnson said. “He didn’t try to do too much. He just filled up the strike zone and let our defense work.
“We really did a nice job making plays behind him.”
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com.