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Raiders fall to East Ridge, Apple Valley in playoffs

Sophomore shortstop Drew Davis pulls the ball earlier in the season when Hastings faced East Ridge for the first time. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
Senior pitcher Mat Nicklay rears back and fires against East Ridge in their game in Miesville at the beginning of May. Alec Hamilton / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

The Hastings baseball team ended its season after losing to East Ridge and Apple Valley in section playoffs. The Raiders fell to the Raptors for the second time this season on May 25, 6-2. They then faced Apple Valley in the consolation bracket on Memorial Day and lost 2-1 in a game that went 10 innings. Including the playoffs, Hastings ends its season with an 11-11 overall record. The Raiders went 11-5 in the Metro East Conference to finish second and at one point won nine straight MEC games in a row.

East Ridge

Hastings fell behind quickly to the Raptors after East Ridge scored a run in the first and third innings to take a 2-0 lead. Senior catcher Cole Benson was able to answer in the fourth inning with a solo home run, his first of the year, to cut the deficit to one. However, the Raptors scored two runs in the fifth to extend their lead. Hastings scored one more run in the fifth on an RBI double by senior Mat Nicklay. East Ridge then scored two more runs in the sixth inning for a 6-2 lead, which would be the final.

Nicklay pitched 5 1/3 innings, gave up six runs (four earned) on 13 hits and one walk to go with one strikeout. Senior Jake Brake relieved Nicklay and pitched 2/3 of an inning.

Nicklay and senior Cody Leflay both had two hits and four of the Raiders five in the game combined with Benson's home run.

Head coach Taylor Pagel said that the Raiders had plenty of chances on offense.

"We just didn't capitalize on the chances we had," he said. "Mat Nicklay tripled to start an inning and didn't score, and there were other times we had runners on second or on second and third. If we get those big hits, the pendulum swings and maybe they're (Apple Valley) playing on their heels like I thought we were."

Apple Valley

The game against Apple Valley was a grind-it-out game where hits and runs were at a premium for both teams. Over the 10 innings, each team only had six hits each, to go along with two errors committed for both.

"There were a ton of battles between pitchers and batters," Pagel said. "Apple Valley hit the ball hard but our defense played well. We hit the ball hard too as well, but they just went to guys (in the field)."

Both teams scored in the fourth inning. The Raiders scored one in the top of the fourth on an RBI single by Benson that scored Brake. Apple Valley answered with a run of their own in the bottom of the inning.

The game was tied 1-1 from the fourth inning until the bottom of the 10th when Apple Valley walked off with 2-1 win.

Nicklay once again got the start and pitched a strong nine innings, gave up just the one run on four hits, three walks and had one strikeout. Brake came in the 10th and gave up the game winning run on two hits and a walk.

Brake had three of the Raiders six hits and scored the team's only run. Benson, Nicklay and senior Logan Radke each had a hit apiece.

Pagel concluded by saying the Raiders' season had its highs and lows.

"It was a season of ups and downs," Pagel explained. "Our hitting started slow but our pitching was good. But then the hitting heated up and our pitching stayed solid. I thought with how we were hitting that it would carry over, but at the end of the season our hitting kind of left us."

Alec Hamilton

Alec Hamilton is a sports reporter and general assignment reporter at the Hastings Star Gazette. He is a journalism graduate of Drake University.

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