Plankinton capitalized on opportunities and prevented Salem from doing the same on Thursday.
The Bankers edged the Cubs 6-5 in the opening round of Class B state amateur tournament at Cadwell Park. Plankinton (19-1) will now play Crofton (Nebraska) at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday in the second round.
Winners of now 18 straight games, Plankinton worked out of some jams in the middle innings and produced timely hits to outlast Salem.
“It’s not unusual for us being in those situations,” Plankinton co-manager and outfielder Chris Hill said. “That’s the way we have been playing all year long.”
Plankinton starter Josh Engquist did just enough and held the Cubs in check. He struck out four batters, scattered 11 hits and allowed three earned runs in his eight-inning start. Salem plated three runs in the second inning, but Engquist responded with six shutout innings.
He also worked out of a couple crucial jams to keep Salem off the scoreboard. In the sixth inning, the Cubs loaded the bases with no outs. But Cory Struck grounded into a 1-2-3 double play. Two batters later, Isaac Anderson flied out to center field.
“The major thing is put the ball over the plate and let them hit it,” Engquist. “Obviously, our ‘D’ stepped up and we were able to get a double play on it one time. Overall it’s do or die and it’s a situation at state and you have to make it happen and luckily we were able to get out of those jams.”
In the next two innings, the Cubs put five total runners on base and didn’t produce a run.
“Missed opportunities and that’s what it comes down to in a single-elimination tournament, you have to capitalize and we just didn’t do it,” Salem manager and third baseman Cole Cheeseman said. “That’s ultimately why we are heading home.”
Meanwhile, the Bankers cashed in on their opportunities. In the bottom of the seventh, Chris Hill’s two-out, RBI single just dropped out of the glove of a diving Tyler Cleveland in center field.
“When I drove it to left center and I was hoping that he wasn’t going to get to it,” Hill said. “He made a h--- of a play on it and didn’t come up with it. So that’s good for us.”
On the very next pitch, Alex Loes racked up another run with an RBI single to pad Plankinton’s lead to 6-3. Loes and Hill finished with three hits, while Orric Earl and Colome pick-up player Geno Katz had two hits apiece. The Bankers finished with 15 hits.
“Overall we have been hitting the ball really well on all year,” Engquist said. “It’s nice when it comes to state and we did it.”
The Cubs (10-14-1) plated two runs in the ninth inning and had the tying run on third base with two outs. But Kyle Tuschen hit a sharp ground ball to Loes, who made a nice play on the ball from his third base spot and gunned it to first base for the final out.
“It was good to see some fight,” Cheeseman said. “I think that’s something we can really build off of into next year.”
Landon Neugebauer led Salem with three hits. Tyler Earls took the loss. He struck out five batters, gave up five earned runs and 14 hits.
Up next, the Bankers will turn their attention to the Bluejays after the first round victory and their 19th straight win. But Plankinton isn’t focused on the winning streak.
“The last couple of years we have pressure on us and this year we have been playing loose baseball and we are playing a lot better this year because of it,” Hill said. “This year we are just coming out and having fun.”