HASTINGS — First State Bank’s memorable 2019 season came to a close Saturday in the Mid-South Regional Baseball Tournament at Duncan Field.
Eventual tournament runner-up Bryant (Arkansas) edged the Seniors 5-4. First State’s season, which included its first state championship and regional appearance in 73 years, ends at 35-11.
Saturday’s loss and a 2-0 setback in eight innings on Friday night to eventual champion Festus (Missouri) gave FSB a 2-2 record in the tournament.
“In those two losses, if a couple of things go different, we very easily could’ve won them and been in a different position, but that is baseball,” FSB coach Jeff Hayden said. “The kids played as hard as they could and competed as hard as they could. I think people now know that we play quality baseball in Fremont. That is a legacy these kids will leave behind them.”
Austin Callahan, one of eight players to close out his Legion career for FSB, scored three runs against Bryant, including a home run to right field in the third inning. It was the 168th homer over the fence at Duncan and the first by a Legion player since Max Ayoub of Grand Island hit one in 2011. There have only been 46 homers hit at Duncan by Legion players, tournament officials said.
“We were talking about how his (pitcher Will Hathcote) slider had some late break on it,” Callahan said. “I squared it up pretty good and got it out.”
Callahan’s homer tied it at 2, but Bryant went up 3-2 in the fourth. Noah Davis singled, stole second, stole third and came home on an error. The Arkansas squad added a run in the fifth on a double by Logan Chambers, a hit batsman, a sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly by Gage Stark.
FSB got a run in the bottom of the fifth. Eli Herink reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second and moved to third on an error before scoring on a wild pitch.
In the top of the sixth, Davis singled and moved to second on Peyton Dillon’s sacrifice bunt. William Grant’s RBI single made it 5-3.
First State mounted a serious threat in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Brody Sintek singled. After a pop out, Dawson Glause drew a four-pitch walk which prompted a pitching change. Tyler Bates relieved Hathcote and walked Jackson Gilfry to load the bases. Bates escaped damage by getting a fly out to end the inning.
In the seventh, Callahan reached second thanks to a dropped third strike and an errant throw to first by catcher Cade Drennan. Callahan then stole his fourth base of the game before scoring on Dillon Dix’s RBI ground out. Bates retired the next two hitters to end it.
Despite the loss, Hayden said FSB showed it belonged among the elite teams in the tournament.
“We knew we had a good team coming into the tournament,” he said. “We didn’t know much about the teams we were going to play, but after getting a good feel for it after the first few games, I was very optimistic and felt good about our chances of possibly winning the regional.”
Brennan Callahan took the loss. He worked 4 1/3 innings and allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits and two walks. He struck out one. Herink worked the final 2 2/3 innings. He allowed an earned run on two hits and no walks.
Sintek had a pair of singles while Dawson Glause, Gilfry and Dix had one apiece. Austin Callahan added his solo shot.
“I’ve been coming here a long time as a player and coach,” Hayden said. “That’s the first home run I’ve ever seen here.”
The Callahan twins were two of eight players closing out their Legion careers. The others include: Eli and Nick Herink, Sintek, Dix, Mitchell Glause and Donnie Mueller.
“I’m not sure I can put into words what this group has meant to me personally as a coach and also to our program,” Hayden said. “A huge majority of them have been varsity contributors for us for three years now. It is going to be very different next spring (during the prep season) filling out that lineup card for the first time and we won’t have them.”
Hayden said he is grateful for the support of the Legion and its board, Neil Schilke, who provides the field that FSB plays on, Brad Novak, who maintains the field, and the bank.
“We play these other teams and it is rare to have one sponsor for three teams,” he said. “The bank offers us great financial support and we couldn’t do it without them.”
Hayden is also thankful for the fan support the team received at the American Division Tournament at Omaha Creighton Prep, the state championship series at Gretna and in Hastings.
“It has been incredible,” he said. “It has been humbling and overwhelming how much support we’ve received from the people within the community. It wouldn’t happen without these kids. ... They are the reason people showed up to support us.”