LINCOLN — Lincoln Pius X pitcher Jordan Haas had the right strategy: Throw strikes and let the defense do the heavy lifting.
“It’s a team game,” Haas said after shutting down Norris’ heavy-hitting top of the order for five innings and setting the stage for a 4-1 Pius win in the winners bracket of the Class B state tournament in Den Hartog Field.
Haas turned in a blue-collar performance, striking out only one batter, but walking only one and giving up one run on five hits. It let Pius’ strength — defense — take center stage.
In the second inning, a double play from shortstop Tom Schneider to second baseman Jake Schleppenbach to first baseman Jared Kolbusch halted a Norris threat. The same combination turned a double play to stop a threat in the sixth inning. A third double play in the fourth inning resulted from a Norris runner being called for interfering with an infield throw.
Just as impressive were two catches in deep center field by Chris Bodfield in the fifth inning, shutting down the Titans after two runners had reached base and Norris’ only run had crossed the plate.
“We outhit them, but they have a great defense,” Norris coach Jason Cullison said. “Their center fielder is outstanding. He made plays that could have been doubles or maybe a triple.”
Pius coach Troy Charf said the balls caught by Bodfield might have been home runs on some shorter fields.
These defensive gems came against the top four sluggers in the Norris lineup, who had scored seven runs and reached base a total of 12 times the day before in a 13-3 win over South Sioux City.
“I went out and threw our kind of game — let the defense do the work,” Haas said. “We have one of the best defenses in the state.”
Charf said Haas mixes his pitches well.
“He has off-speed to compliment the other pitches. He’s been doing this all year,” Charf said. “Strikes and defense — that’s what we tell our guys.”
Charf went to relievers Fletcher Zornes in the sixth inning and Travis Sedlak in the seventh. Zornes gave up a hit but faced only three batters, thanks to a double play. Sedlak gave up a single and a walk but benefited from three groundouts that included a long throw by third baseman Tony McWilliams that nipped a runner at first.
The Pius victory avenged a 5-2 regular-season loss to Norris.
The Thunderbolts scored three runs in the third inning when two batters reached base after being hit with pitches, one reached on an error, another walked and both Schneider and Bodfield had RBI singles.
“You can’t make mistakes like that against a team like Pius,” Cullison said.
Pius has clinched a spot in the championship game on Thursday. But the Thunderbolts will play South Sioux City Wednesday at 4 p.m. If they win, it will take two losses to eliminate them in the championship finals on Thursday.
Norris (27-5)...............................000 010 0—1 8 1
Lincoln Pius X (22-9).................103 000 x—4 4 3
W: Jordan Haas. L: Jason Willet. 2B: N, B. Peterson.
Contact the writer: