Jordan Callihan slowed down as he approached second base and turned back to his dugout along the first base side.
He had just smacked a double along the right-field line that only stopped moving because it hit the back fence. Callihan smiled at his teammates and made a gesture to his helmet in celebration.
His celebration was short lived, as Lane Blackwell brought him in with a ground-rule double that flirted with the left-field line. Once Callihan had the signal he was allowed to score, he jumped in the air and started a celebratory jog to home plate.
His run put Ogallala ahead 3-2 in the sixth inning, and it proved to be enough for a 4-2 victory over the Kearney Jerseys Friday to win the Mid-Nebraska League American Legion Tournament championship.
“It feels good,” Blackwell said of winning the championship. “I mean, it’s not districts, but this just meant more to us than it did last year because this is all we got. It was really all or nothing here today, and it was great.”
Callihan’s double was his only hit of the night, but his biggest impact came on the mound. He pitched a complete game, only allowing two runs on four hits. His only slip up on an otherwise great pitching performance was a 2-run home run in the top of the fourth inning.
Blackwell led the team with two hits, a single in the second inning and his ground-rule double in the sixth. Caden Laviaguerre and Aiden Halligan each had a hit.
Lightning in the area forced a rain delay after the top of the third inning. The scoring started once play resumed. Noah Ackerman was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the third, then stole second base. Laviaguerre moved the runner to third on a ground out, and Ackerman scored the next at-bat on a wild pitch.
Kearney responded by taking the lead in the fourth. A single to left field set the stage for Alex Hunt to send a dinger over the left-field fence to give Kearney a 2-1 leead.
“I was thinking, ‘Flush it,’” Callihan said. “It’s not going to help us whatsoever if I hold my head down because I’m kind of the last pitcher we had at this point. At that point I was like, ‘You got to flush it and give the team the best you got these last three innings.’”
Those were the only two runs Kearney scored, as momentum began to shift in the fifth inning. Halligan reached second base on an error when the center fielder dropped a fly ball. Laviaguerre brought him around to score with a single up the middle to tie the game.
Then came the sixth inning. Callihan scored on the ground-rule double to make it a 3-2 game. Ian Shaw reached on a throwing error to first base, and Blackwell successfully reached home on the play to set the score at 4-2.
Kearney showed some fight in the top of the seventh, as Patrick Black lined a two-out double between center and right field, but couldn’t come around to score.
“When you hit the ball and you’re making things happen, eventually it’s going to fall into place and you’re going to put up some runs,” Ogallala coach Joe Callihan said. “That’s just what happened tonight.”