MNB diamond team still wants more

Wednesday, July 31, 2019
The McCook Legion Post 203 Seniors will be focused on even loftier goals after making another Class B state tournament at Gering this season. They lined up (above) to knock out host Gering but dropped two other state games against Springfield and Hickman.
Steve Towery/McCook Gazette

McCOOK, Neb. — One McCook National Bank Seniors coach proved to be a prophet when discussing the Class B Legion state baseball title race Tuesday afternoon.

“I honestly have a gut feeling that Bennington is going to beat (previously unbeaten) Alliance,” co-head coach Jeff Holthus said on his final post-game radio interview for 2019. “That will make a winner-take-all championship game.”

Sure enough, Bennington beat Alliance 6-2 Tuesday night after Springfield won a 10-8 elimination thriller over Hickman.

Those three teams were set to decide the Class B state champion today at Oregon Trails Park in Gering.

Meanwhile, Holthus and the MNB Seniors will reflect on reaching their vision for every summer baseball season.

“We have to find a way to get over this hump at the state tournament,” he remarked about another 1-2 performance after winning their fifth straight B-6 area championship last week. “We want to stay in this tournament until Tuesday and Wednesday.”

The McCook Seniors were knocked out Monday afternoon when Hickman used an 11-run inning to break away for a 13-1 victory.

“We played competitive baseball the first four innings,” Holthus observed. “But we didn’t offensively put any real pressure on them (Hickman). Four hits in five innings is not really going to cut it at this time of the year.”

However, mixed messages follow MNB into the off-season — which is actually quite a good thing.

The McCook boys shook off a slow start to win 28 games this season.

They shook off an 0-3 start along with bad weather that wiped out several key early-season contests.

MNB surged down the home stretch, winning 11 of 13 games going into the state tournament.

“Around mid-season, honestly, coach (Scott) Smalley and I thought this team might just flirt around .500 all year,” Holthus said. “But the kids really bought into everything we talked about. To finish 28-16 is a really good accomplishment considering we lost about 10 games due to (bad) weather.”

“Our goal is always to win 30 games,” he added. “Without the weather, we would have accomplished it and probably more.”

The Seniors batted .325 as a team with five starters above .336.

They also featured five pitchers who earned four wins or more while posting a respectable team earned-run average of just below 4.34.

“They exceeded our expectations,” Holthus concluded about the 2019 team.

The MNB Seniors will lose four huge contributors in top pitcher Trae Koetter (four wins, five saves), infielder/pitcher Seth Dugger (4-0 record, .382 batting average), Drew Harvie (team-high 30 RBIs, 10 doubles, seven triples) and Kaleb Gillen (14 RBIs, four doubles, .282 average).

“Those four put a lot of time, effort, sweat and tears in our program,” Holthus said.

“We’re really going to miss them.”

Yet that also means many of MNB’s top players are eligible to return.

The McCook Legion Post 203 program also featured a First Central Bank Juniors team that won one state tourney game and an excellent 17-1 Pinnacle Bank 14-under league champions.

“The cupboard’s definitely not empty,” Holthus concluded. “The baseball program is thriving right now.”

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