LINCOLN — The Cole Camp baseball team could not defend its district championship, falling in the Class 2, District 13 title game 15-5 to Skyline on Wednesday.
The Bluebirds fell behind 8-0 before rallying back with a four-run fourth inning, but could not get any closer.
In the fourth, Tyler Ward and Zachary Craig hit back-to-back singles to open the inning. After Darryn Frain drew a one-out walk to load the bases, Ward came home on a groundout. Freshman catcher Holt Wroten followed with a single to right to score two runs. Ramon Jamerson came on as a courtesy runner for Wroten and scored when Koby Knievel drew a bases-loaded walk.
“We finally got to the starter,” said Cole Camp coach Todd Rusk. “We was throwing strikes for us and we were able to read his arm slot.”
Skyline starter Drew Flagg was able to get out of the inning with a fly ball. He pitched four innings, allowing five hits and four runs and striking out three.
“Two outings ago he struggled a little bit and our last outing was our last game at Clever,” said Skyline coach Brett Bybee. “He pitched really well that game and he’s getting back in the zone. He’s got real good speed and a really good curveball but he’s been out of the zone lately. We’ve been doing some extra work with him and getting him back in the rhythm.”
Cole Camp had chances in the early innings. The Bluebirds had runners on second and third in the top of the first with one out but a strike out and a pop out ended the inning. In the third Cole Camp had runners on first and second with one out but a pair of strike outs kept the Bluebirds from scoring.
“That’s frustrating,” Rusk said. “That’s been our Achilles heel all year is hits with runners in scoring position. They’re a good team. We can’t leave guys on base against good clubs.”
Cole Camp went down in order in the fifth inning, then scored another run in the sixth when Ward drew a bases-loaded walk, but a strikeout ended that threat and the Bluebirds didn’t get another chance.
Skyline broke through with six runs in the second inning. A Corbin Cole single brought home Brandon Keller with the game’s first run. Chase Glor followed with a grounder to third. Cole Camp briefly had Cole in a run-down before he made it back to second safely and Zach Vader scored on the play. Lane Wisdom followed with a single up the middle to score Cole and Glor, making it 4-0. Anther run scored on a wild pitch and a throwing error brought home the sixth run of the inning.
Skyline added two more runs in the third when back-to-back doubles scored Vader and Glor and a run in the fourth on a wild pitch.
“My guys are really aggressive at the plate,” Bybee said. “I told them before the game to make sure we’re not too aggressive and helping out the pitcher. We had a short inning in the first and they got back into the zone and started raking the ball like they can and they just started getting some base hits and stealing some bases.”
Skyline nearly invoked the run rule in the bottom of the fifth. With three runs already in, Skyline loaded the bases with one out. A grounder to short resulted in a force out at the plate for the second out. Ethan DaMitz followed with a long drive to center but Ward ranged back and made the catch with his back to the plate to end the inning and extend the game.
Skyline forced the run rule with three runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Fox reached base three times in the game, drawing two walks and singling up the middle. The only time he didn’t reach safely came in the fourth when his groundout drove in a run.
“He stepped in from a lower-third guy last year as a sophomore to being our lead-off hitter,” Rusk said. “He’s just jumped right into that role. He leads the team in walks, hit-batsmen. He hits for contact. His on-base-percentage is probably close to .600. He just sets the table for us and we’ve got to find the opportunities to get some hits.”
The Bluebirds end the season 9-13 and the loss also marks the end of the Cole Camp career of Connor Balke. In his final high school game he singled, drew a pair of walks and reached on a fielder’s choice.
“He’s given me everything you could ever offer a coach,” Rusk said. “He played shortstop, he’s played left, he’s pitched. He’d probably catch if I’d let him. He’s going to be hard to replace.”
The Bluebirds will have a lot of talent returning in 2015. Cole Camp started a sophomore on the mount and at first and second, juniors at third and in the outfield and a freshman behind the plate in the district championship game.
“The future is bright,” Rusk said. “I’d sure like to get here again. I’d like to make this a habit instead of every once in a while.”