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McCook/Miner stays hot, advances to Class B state tourney

McCook/Miner first baseman Cade Schmitt makes the catch at first base as Hartford/Humboldt's Tyler Renken reaches first base safely during the Region 5B Legion baseball championship game Sunday in Humboldt. (Marcus Traxler / Republic)1 / 2
McCook/Miner's Wyatt Kayser delivers a pitch to home plate during the Region 5B Legion baseball championship game Sunday in Humboldt (Marcus Traxler / Republic)2 / 2

HUMBOLDT — The McCook/Miner Legion baseball team didn't panic Sunday.

They were in a two-run hole in the fifth inning but flipped the game around in an instant, quickly scoring three runs and never relinquishing control again in the Region 5B title contest, clinching their trip to the Class B state Legion baseball tournament on the first try against Hartford/Humboldt in a 4-2 win Sunday in Humboldt.

The win is the eighth straight for M/M (26-6) heading to the state tournament, which starts Friday. M/M will take on the hosts Winner/Colome in the final game of the day at Leahy Bowl in Winner, at approximately 7:30 p.m.

"We've been down before and I just told the guys that they know how to score runs," said M/M coach Marshall Miller. "And that's what they did. They've been in this situation before and they handled it well."

In the fifth inning, Kohl Miller reached on an error to start the frame and Cole Gassman hit the next pitch down the left field line to trim the lead to 2-1. After Trent Kingsbury walked and Kendall Gassman moved the runners ahead on a groundout, Kyle Tuschen hit a two-run single to left field, scoring Cole Gassman and Kingsbury and putting M/M in the lead.

"We know it doesn't take much to get us going," Cole Gassman said. "There's confidence in every guy in our lineup in getting the hits we need."

M/M added one more in the sixth inning when H/H's left fielder dropped a fly ball with two outs, allowing Cole Gassman to score and make it 4-2. That lead was more than enough for Wyatt Kayser, who slammed the door closed in the sixth and seventh, allowing just one hit for the save and sending M/M back to state for the first time since winning the 2015 state title.

Kingsbury gave M/M the start they needed on the mound. He tossed five innings in the winning effort, allowing three hits, two earned runs and striking out five. M/M stayed in the winner's bracket all weekend, playing four times in five days and was able to spread out the use of their strong pitching staff.

"We know we've got the arms," Cole Gassman said. "That's a big advantage for us."

H/H (13-11) converted a Devin Garry triple in the fifth inning with a squeeze play to take a 2-0 lead. Miles Mutziger was hit by a pitch in the fourth inning with the bases loaded to drive in the first run of the game but H/H was otherwise undermined by five defensive errors in the game. Brandon McKnight pitched a complete game for the tournament hosts, allowing five hits, four runs (two earned) and striking out two.

After falling to M/M on Thursday 14-6, H/H won three times, including twice on Saturday to make the championship game and would have needed two wins to advance to the state tournament.