TOPEKA — Bremen baseball coach Bo Hundt would rather get a big inning in the first. But hey, he’ll take the seventh if he has to.
The No. 10 Lions got six shutout innings from starter Jacob Bennitt, and they broke open a 3-0 game with five runs as Fremont rotated through a trio of pitchers in the top of the seventh in an 8-0 Class 2A Westview Sectional semifinal win over the Eagles in the nightcap in Topeka Thursday. Bremen now advances to face the host Warriors in the championship game Monday, slated for noon.
After grinding out three runs through the first five innings, the Lions finally put up a big number with the top of the order coming around for the fourth time in the top of the seventh.
Bryce Cassel drew a leadoff walk and took second on a wild pitch, and Wes Burkholder doubled him in with a grounder through the gap at second. Eric Knepper singled Burkholder over to third as Brice Schnuler took over for Fremont starter Glen McLain, then took second on a wild pitch, and freshman catcher Drew Coffel drove in both with a two-run rocket back to Schnuler. Tyler Coffel coaxed a walk, both he and younger brother Drew advanced a base on a double steal, and Drew scored and Ty took third on a wild pitch to Bobby Cornett.
Brett Louderback dropped a one-out double down the right field line to score Ty and push the lead out to its final margin before Dillon Mullen drew Schnuler’s second walk in six batters faced before Braxton Baker was brought in to replace him on the mound. Baker walked Bennitt to load the bases and bring the top of the order back around, but an infield fly and a flyout to center retired the side with three left stranded.
But it was more than enough for Bremen, which advanced to the Westview Sectional championship for the third straight year.
“That’s how we play team baseball. We go out there, and we’re going to grind it out until we get that inning where everything just starts coming alive,” said Hundt. “It could be the first inning, and then we don’t have to grind as much. I’d rather have it the first inning, but you know what, we’re going to go out there and we’re going to play our game and we’re going to compete against ourselves every single day.”
Meanwhile, Bremen got six masterful innings from Bennitt, who surrendered just three hits and three walks with six strikeouts in the cold, steady drizzle in Topeka. Cornett came in to slam the door shut on the Eagles in the seventh as they went down in order with two flyouts and a foul out to close out the nightcap.
“He was mad I took him out, but that’s what I want in a player. Somebody that wants to be out there the whole time,” said Hundt of Bennitt. “I wanted to give Bobby a little time on the hill at sectional time, and we’re going to be back here on Monday so he needs the experience out there as well. But Bennitt was a little nervous… That was the first time he’s been on a mound in a sectional game so there were a little nerves, but he came out and stepped up. Everybody else stepped up too. We played a great team baseball game today.”
The game was tight through six with Bremen stretching out three hits off just three hits, two walks and the team’s characteristically aggressive base running.
Tyler Coffel led off the second with a walk, Cornett singled him over to second and both advanced a base on a wild pitch to set the table for Louderback, who drove in Coffel when his grounder to second was booted. Cassel drew a two-out walk from McLain to load the bases, but Burkholder went down looking to leave the bags packed with Bremen leading by a slim 1-0 margin.
Ty and the Lions pushed their lead out to two runs in the third as Knepper reached on an error at short, and Ty scored him with a double to the center field fence on a hit and run with one out, but he was left on as the next two batters grounded out.
The Lions went down in order in the fourth to keep the margin at 2-0, but Drew Coffel reached on another error at second and stole second, and Ty drove him in with his second doubled of the night as Eagles left fielder Braxton Baker lost the high fly in the lights in the top of the fifth to give Bremen a 3-0 advantage.
Ty finished the game a perfect 4-for-4 on base with two walks and two doubles, and he drove in two and scored twice in the game to lead his team at the plate.
“Tyler did a great job,” said Hundt. “He got us going. We had a hit and run going on and he drove the ball to center field and scored Knepper from first base, and that was the key to really getting us going there in the third inning, and we just went from there.”
Bremen advances to play Westview on the Warriors’ home field in the championship Monday. In their third straight sectional championship berth, the Lions are looking for their first title since 2001 in a match-up that has been steadily shaping into a sectional rivalry over the past several seasons with the two teams splitting the past two years.
“We saw them here in the first game, and they’re a good ball club,” said Hundt. “We played them last year. Two years ago we played them in the championship and they beat us; last year we got them in the semifinal and beat them, so it’s going to be a showdown.”
• BREMEN 8, FREMONT 0
At Class 2A Westview Sectional
Bremen: 011 010 5 — 8 7 0
Fremont: 000 000 0 — 0 3 3
WP: Jacob Bennitt; LP: Glen McLain
2B: Tyler Coffel 2 (B), Wes Burkholder (B), Brett Louderback.