Instead of peeking ahead to regional play, Pinnacle Bank players seized Saturday’s Class A Legion championship.
Caleb Feekin struck out 10 and Pinnacle Bank (Papillion-La Vista) hitters recorded 12 hits — including four doubles — in a 6-0 victory over two-time defending state Legion champion Five Points Bank (Omaha Creighton Prep).
Though both will represent Nebraska in the Central Plains Regional in Dickinson, North Dakota — the two clubs will meet in one of Wednesday’s four first-round games — Pinnacle Bank didn’t want to brush off the chance to win a state championship.
While Five Points had won five of the past six Class A Legion crowns, Pinnacle Bank reigned Saturday in front of an estimated 450 at Fricke Field. Not since back-to-back Legion titles in 1986 and 1987 has the Papio program finished the summer season on top.
Pinnacle Bank coach Nate McCabe was surprised the title drought went that far back — “I thought we might have won one in the ’90s,” — so Saturday’s win was especially satisfying for him and the program.
“Every spring, every summer, we always have goals,” McCabe said. “One of the goals is always to win a state championship. To see these guys come together as a team, and their sole purpose is to just go and compete, that’s all we want to do. We met our goal.”
Feekin struck out four of the first six batters he faced.
“Setting the tone early in the game, it really helps out later on,” Feekin said. “They’ve got to come up and battle with you. I just tried to fill up the strike zone, make them hit it so I could go deep into the game.
“When you fill it up like that, it just helps everything else out.”
Five Points had scored 69 runs in its previous five wins in the American Division portion of the tournament, making Feekin’s performance much more impressive. While Five Points may not have sent its top four pitchers out Saturday, Feekin limited its top lineup to six hits.
That was no surprise to Five Points coach Pat Mooney, who said his team didn’t score any runs off the Pinnacle ace in the spring or summer seasons.
“We just couldn’t put anything together on Caleb,” Mooney said. “Basically, he just dominated the game. We just couldn’t get anything moving. We don’t get shut out too often. He’s pretty darned tough.”
A leadoff single by left fielder Ben Beaudin and two hit batters loaded the bases for Pinnacle Bank with one out in the bottom of the second. But Five Points starter Max Mandel retired David Richardson and Conner Barnett with back-to-back strikeouts to end the Pinnacle Bank threat.
Feekin’s strikeout total reached six through four innings before Pinnacle Bank’s bats in the bottom of the fourth gave him a lead to work with.
Beaudin led off with his second single of the game and stole second base before catcher Tom Loseke put down a sacrifice bunt.
Nate Whitehill drove Beaudin home for the first run with a single to center field. A single to center by Tyler Koory, followed by Mandel’s third hit batter of the day loaded the bases. Barnett stepped in and belted his second double of the day. His shot to the gap in right-center field made it 3-0.
Pinnacle Bank added three more runs in the bottom of the sixth. An RBI infield single by Feekin was followed by Mike Ripa and Caiden Hill scoring on an error.
Feekin pitched 8 2⁄3 innings with Whitehill coming in to record the final out because Feekin had thrown 118 pitches. The Legion pitch limit is 120.
Feekin will not be available for Wednesday’s rematch in Dickinson. Four days of rest between appearances is required, so Feekin can’t pitch again until Thursday.
That’s fine with Mooney.
“We’re happy that we won’t see him in the first round because he won’t have enough days off,” Mooney said. “So somebody else gets to mess with him, not us. Should be a barn-burner up there.”
Five Points Bank (49-6) …… 000 000 000—0 5 1
Pinnacle Bank (39-9) ……… 000 303 00x—6 12 0
W: Caleb Feekin. L: Max Mandel. 2B: FP, Nate Reiner; PB, Conner Barnett 2, Tom Loseke, Mike Ripa.