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Broncos Season Ends One Win Short of State

Russell Bronco BaseballClass 4A Division II Regional Semifinal: Russell-Victoria 13, Smoky Valley 11

Class 4A Division II Regional Final: Nickerson 8, Russell-Victoria 0

HOISINGTON-The Russell-Victoria Baseball team advanced to the Class 4A Division II Regional Championship Game for the second consecutive year but just like 2017, the Broncos ran into a team with solid pitching as they fell to Nickerson 8-0 Tuesday evening at Legion Field in Hoisington.

Earlier, Tuesday the Broncos survived a late rally by Smoky Valley in the Regional Semifinal.  Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning, the Broncos put up four runs on two bases-loaded walks, an RBI single and a fielder's choice to grab a 4-1 advantage.  After the Vikings pulled to within 4-3 in the top of the second, Russell-Victoria added two more runs for a 6-3 lead on a two-run single by Kirk Huser.  After a run scored in the third inning on a Viking error, the Broncos plated two more in the fourth on back-to-back RBI singles by Koby Decker and Cooper Windholz to make the score 9-3.  

The game was far from over however, as Smoky Valley pulled to within 9-7 with four runs in the top of the fifth with the big blow a three-run homer by Brandon Malm who ended up driving in five runs.  Russell-Victoria responded with three runs of their own in the bottom of the frame on RBI Singles by Kyle Farmer and Decker and a bases-loaded walk to Cole Schmidtberger, to swell the lead to 12-7.  Smoky Valley (6-13) stormed back with another four-run rally in the sixth to cut the Bronco lead to 12-11.  Russell-Victoria held on to the lead when Smoky Valley's Chris Mullin flew out to Windholz in right field and he then fired a strike to catcher Rhett Pospichial who fooled Vikings pinch-runner Tyler Miller into thinking the throw would be up the third base line, but Pospichal surprised Miller with a tag on the shoulder at home plate to complete the double play and end the inning.

The Broncos added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI single by Walker Braun and hung on in the seventh for the win.  Windholz (1-0) was the surprise starter for Russell Victoria and pitched five plus innings, allowing five hits and striking out three.  Schmidtberger worked the final two innings for his second save of the season.

In the nightcap, the Broncos ran into a hot Nickerson team which defeated Hoisington-Central Plains earlier in the day 9-0.  The Panthers touched up Russell-Victoria starter Kyle Farmer (3-5) for three runs in the first inning and two more in the second for a 5-0 advantage.  The Broncos put two runners on base with nobody out in the top of the third on back-to-back singles by Decker and Windholz but could not capitalize.  From then on the Panthers added a single run in the fourth and two more in the fifth to pull away.

Nickerson pitcher Tanner Schrag pitched a complete game allowing five hits and registering eight strikeouts to send the Panthers (21-1) to the Class 4A Division II State tournament in Emporia next week.

Decker was the offensive standout for the Broncos in his final game in a Russell-Victoria uniform collecting five hits in the two games, and driving in three runs.  He nearly earned a sixth hit but Schrag was able to throw him out at first base in the fifth inning after he lined a ball off his glove.  The Broncos conclude the 2018 season with a record of 11-9, a two-game improvement over 2017 and a second place finish in the North Central Activities Association.

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