GILLETTE, Wyo. — A long weekend facing more top-notch competition concluded on a high note for the WESTCO Zephyrs senior legion baseball team during the final day of the Hladky Memorial Tournament on Sunday in Gillette, Wyoming.
The Zephyrs earned a 7-6 win over Rapid City Post 320 in eight innings on Sunday morning to wrap up the four-day tournament with a 3-2 record.
WESTCO head coach Jeremiah Luber said it was nice to cap the weekend with a thrilling win.
“It was really good for us,” Luber said. “We faced some adversity in that game and were able to overcome it and get a win. That was really good to see from our guys.”
After leading Rapid City for much of the contest, the Zephyrs were forced to play an extra inning following a late comeback by the Stars in the late stages. Rapid City plated a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh to pull into a 5-5 tie.
WESTCO wouldn’t be denied. Following a quick out in the top of the eighth, KJ Hartline doubled to put himself in scoring position with the go-ahead run. Hartline raced home to give the Zephyrs a 6-5 lead on Paul Panduro’s single. Panduro later scored an insurance run on a single off the bat of Jack Jones.
Hunter McCollum then was able to close out Rapid City in the bottom of the frame after the Stars pushed across a run to pull within 7-6. McCollum earned the win on the mound in relief of Panduo, who struck out 10 and allowed just two earned runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings of work.
Like was the case throughout the tournament, WESTCO was able to minimize its miscues defensively and received strong pitching in the finale.
“I felt like we pitched outstanding all weekend. That was really good to see,” Luber said. “We improved a lot defensively this weekend, so we definitely got better and that was what we were looking for.”
The Zephyrs totaled 14 hits in Sunday’s contest. Creighton Dike and Jace Heimerman led the way with three hits each. Jones, Hartline and Harold Baez followed with two hits each. Baez finished with a triple and a double, while leading the way with three runs batted in. Dike, Hartline and Jerrett Richter each had a double.
Panduro and Hartline scored two runs each. Panduro drew three walks. Jones led the Zephyrs on the base paths with a pair of steals.
Both of WESTCO’s losses in the tournament came against the two teams that played in the championship game.
“Gillette and Greeley are two high-caliber teams that ended up playing in the championship,” Luber said. “We didn’t get a win against either of them, but I really felt like we competed with them and we weren’t overmatched.”
The Zephyrs, now 21-14 on the season, will begin another busy week of action on Tuesday with the completion of a suspended game against the Alliance First National Spartans. The teams will pick up play of the scoreless game in the third inning beginning at 5 p.m. at Cleveland Field. Luber said it will be a nine-inning contest.
WESTCO will then host Chadron for Fan Appreciation Night on Wednesday before hosting the annual Scottsbluff Screenprinting Wood Bat Classic beginning Friday.
Zephyrs (21-14) 301 010 02 — 7 14 2
Rapid City 100 020 21 — 6 9 1
WP — Hunter McCollum. LP — JT Kostenbauer.
3B — Zephyrs (Harold Baez). 2B — Zephyrs (Baez, Creighton Dike, KJ Hartline, Jerrett Richter). Rapid City (Ian Krump).