Sunday, April 30, 2017

Mustangs Hopes Fade as Northeast Nodaway Nearing 4th Straight Conference Title

The fortunes of the top two teams of the 275 Conference flipped on a dime this week. Two weeks ago, Northeast Nodaway was still looking for their first win as North Nodaway’s fortunes, behind the arm and bat of Peyton Coleman, were riding high. But the fortunes of the two teams flipped on a dime this week.

Northeast had battled back into position to contention with twinbill victories over Platte Valley and an 18-3 thrashing of expansion DeKalb. They beat a bigger school in Trenton last weekend 8-4; they did not let a 17-1 thrashing at the hands of Mid-Buchanan at the Mid-Buchanan tournament faze them as they turned around and beat East Atchison in another twinbill, thrashing them 18-2 and pulling out a 3-1 squeaker. That set up a walkoff 5-4 victory over West Nodaway Tuesday in Ravenwood to put them in position to take the title again with one conference loss.

In the meantime, North Nodaway, after a promising start, completely reversed their fortunes, falling hard, 23-13 to West Nodaway. Out of the conference race, the Rockets have nonetheless won two of their four games, one in a non-conference tournament game, at the expense of the Mustangs. That put North Nodaway in a must win showdown with Platte Valley Thursday.

Coach Jake Shipman sent out Peyton Coleman to face the Longhorns in an effort to save their chance at a title in the first game of a double header, to no avail. Platte Valley began timing and crushing Coleman in the first inning as Tristan Freemyer and Koby Stoll singled, sandwiched around a dropped force throw by shortstop Arron Coleman that fueled the inning as Nate Jermain reached safely. Stoll’s single scored Freemyer, Trey Farnan grounded out to Arron Coleman to score Jermain, and Clayton Wilmes grounded out to Makayla Cross at second to score Stoll to make it 3-0 in Platte Valley’s favor.

With the game slipping away, North Nodaway tried making plays that weren’t there as Peyton Coleman continued to battle baserunners all evening. Koby Stoll whistled a single past second to start the third, Trey Farnan walked, and that brought up Clayton Wilmes. He singled to center, shortstop Arron Coleman tried to throw out Stoll at third, and threw it away, scoring Stoll and putting Farnan at third and Wilmes at second. Regan Meyer grounded out to score courtesy runner Logan Harlan before Peyton Coleman stopped the bleeding by striking out Cameron Watson and getting Taylar Freemyer to squib one in front of the plate for the final out.

North Nodaway trailed 5-0 at that point, but got new life in the bottom of the third when Platte Valley pitcher Trey Farnan, who had sailed through the first two innings, walked the number nine hitter, Makayla Cross, to start off the third. Dakota Smyser singled past short and they went to second and third on a wild pitch when the catcher couldn’t dig out a wild pitch. Peyton Coleman hit a shot up the middle that nearly hit the umpire, but that bounded into center for a hit, scoring both Cross and Smyser. Coleman stole second when the throw hit the high mound and took third on a wild pitch. Tyler Bix popped out, but Arron Coleman took a pitch up and in and singled it to the opposite field between first and second to score Coleman. Ryan Riley walked on a 3-2 pitch that was just low and the tying run was on base, but Logan Keho was called out to strikes to leave Platte Valley up 5-3.

North Nodaway ran into some more trouble in the fourth. Spencer McQueen was called out on strikes on a 3-2 pitch and Peyton Coleman got to 0-2 on leadoff hitter Tristan Freemyer. He tried to overpower Freemyer for strike three, but he hit a towering fly ball into right that Garrett Torres misjudged and it fell in for three bases. Nate Jermain reached as third baseman Logan Keho bobbled a grounder to score a run. Koby Stoll walked and Trey Farnan doubled to left center field to score Freemyer and Jermain to make it 8-3.

North Nodaway got a run back in the fifth, but it could have been a lot more. Dalton Smyser hit a Texas Leaguer that dropped in for a single to start the inning. Peyton Coleman popped out, but Tyler Bix singled up the middle and Arron Coleman singled as well to score Smyser. But Bix was out trying to go from first to third on the play and Farnan froze Ryan Riley for strike three to get out of the inning with his team still up 8-4.

Koby Stoll tripled to right and Trey Farnan grounded out to score him to put the Longhorns up 9-4. Once again North Nodaway got a run back in the sixth, and once again it could have been more. The bottom of the order was coming up, but Logan Keho reached safely when a grounder up the first base line took a bad hop and he reached safely. Jordan Snyder forced him at second, Austin Bird came in to run for Snyder, and Makayla Cross put down a perfect bunt down the third base line to advance Bird. He went to third on a passed ball and scored on an error when Dakota Smyser’s grounder went under the shortstop’s legs to make it 9-5.

Smyser, with two outs, was nearly picked off at first but got back there after a rundown. He stole second when the shortstop missed the tag and then tried to take third on a pickoff play, something he had done successfully in the past. But he was out this time on a close play; frustration set in and coach Jake Shipman went out to argue, to no avail as another rally had been quashed.

The bottom of the order came up for Platte Valley and went 1-2-3 in the seventh and North Nodaway still had a chance to come back since the heart of their order was coming up. It looked like it would go for nothing as Dalton Smyser reached on an error, but Spencer McQueen ran down two well hit balls in right from Peyton Coleman and Tyler Bix. North Nodaway was down to their final out, but Arron Coleman’s pop fly between pitcher and second base dropped in and North Nodaway was still alive. Ryan Riley singled to left and went to second on a futile throw home, putting runners on second and third, making it 9-6, and finishing Trey Farnan. All of a sudden, anything could happen.

Logan Keho greeted Cameron Watson with a grounder to Koby Stoll at second that should have ended the game. But Stoll misplayed and threw it away, allowing two runs to score and making it 9-8. Austin Bird was up next, and he and Watson battled it out to a full count. Finally, Watson threw one that was just low and the winning run was on for Makayla Cross. But she struck out swinging to end the game.

Things looked promising for North Nodaway in the second game against Watson as they started off the scoring in the second with a hard hit double by Ryan Riley over the center fielder’s head; it was one of several monstrous blasts by the freshman for North Nodaway, a rare bright spot in the game. Logan Keho hit a slow roller into right for a base hit that was not deep enough to score Riley. Garrett Torres struck out and Makayla Cross hit a fly ball to shallow right field that was not deep enough to score Riley. But Dakota Smyser singled them both in and North Nodaway was up 2-0.

But then all hell broke loose in the second inning as pitcher Tyler Bix walked five batters in the inning before coach Jake Shipman had seen enough and pulled him with Platte Valley up 3-2 and put Ryan Riley on the mound. But that didn’t help as Riley walked the two batters he faced before Dakota Smyser came on in relief. He walked another batter, forcing in another run, before getting out of the inning; when the dust had settled, North Nodaway was down 6-2.

Desperate to save their title, North Nodaway fought back as Riley hit a screamer into the gap in left center to plate Peyton Coleman to make it 6-3. Garrett Torres led off the fourth with a single down the right field line, and pinch runner Austin Bird stole second. Makayla Cross walked and they stole second and third. Dakota Smyser popped out to short, but Dalton Smyser grounded out and scored Bird, while Peyton Coleman doubled down the right field line to score Cross and make it 6-5.

But then all hell broke loose again in the fourth as Dakota Smyser brushed Trey Farnan with a pitch and then Platte Valley started teeing off on him when he wasn’t missing the strike zone. Seven straight Longhorn batters reached safely at one point, and three walks, four hits, and one error later, eight runs were in and the Mustangs trailed 14-5. The carnage was completed in the fifth when Tristan Freemyer beat out a grounder to Peyton Coleman at short to score Dalton Luke to end the game on the ten run rule at 15-5.

Playing in their last home game for the Mustangs were Dakota Smyser, Peyton Coleman, Jordan Snyder, and Garrett Torres. While they did not get the outcome they wanted for North Nodaway that day, the team has set several milestones this year. This was the first group of players to play four years of baseball at North Nodaway. The team set a school record for wins last year with seven and made it to the district finals; they broke that mark this year with nine wins. In addition, North Nodaway has mathematically clinched a winning season, their first in school history, despite their recent slump; they are at 9-6 with only one regular season game and at least one district game left.

North Nodaway still has a remote chance to catch Northeast Nodaway for the conference title since they are at three conference losses. They must win Friday at Northeast Nodaway and hope Northeast drops at least one more game. Northeast has not clinched a title yet as they have one conference loss and games with North Nodaway, at DeKalb, and at West Nodaway still left to play. Platte Valley can clinch at least a share of the conference title if they win games with DeKalb and East Atchison and Northeast Nodaway drops at least two conference games.

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