Columbus Cornerstone Insurance dropped the first three games of its weekend tournament in Omaha and was staring a four-game losing streak in the face before the bats woke up on Sunday.
After losses to Millard North, Hastings and tournament host Omaha Gross, The Senior Blues pounded out four doubles behind a complete-game effort from Alex Ritzdorf and defeated Papillion-La Vista South 7-2.
Other results included an 8-7 loss to Millard North on Friday and losses of 9-1 Hastings and 6-5 to Gross on Saturday.
Cade Fullner and Derek Smejkal each put together 2-RBI performances with a double in Sunday's win. Ritzdorf scattered 6 hits and struck out two.
Columbus led 3-2 after three then blew it open in a four-run fifth. Despite a 1-3 weekend, coach Cody Schilling said it was two poor innings that ruined what was an otherwise positive four-game set.
"Yeah, 1-3, but if you look at the books and the stats and everything, if two innings go different, we're 3-1 instead of 1-3," he said. "We gave up seven in one inning and six in another during games we were clearly in control of.
"It came down to our relief pitching just wasn't sharp enough at points."
FRIDAY - MILLARD NORTH 8, CORNERSTONE 7
Columbus led 6-1 through 5 and 1/2 innings before Millard North exploded for seven and took the lead for good.
Five straight Millard North hitters reached base with one out followed by four straight two-out singles.
The rally came on a one-out single, double, hit batter then two-RBI single to right that cut the Cornerstone lead to 6-3. Another single in the following at-bat made it 6-4 before a strikeout put Columbus in position to end the frame without any further damage.
Millard North had other ideas and strung together four consecutive hits that brought in four more runs.
Columbus had two on and two out in its next at-bat looking to answer before an infield fly ended the opportunity. Cornerstone had two on and two out again in the seventh, brought one in on an error in right field but left the tying run at third on a fielder's choice at second base.
Brent Beard was saddled with the loss allowing seven earned runs on eight hits. At the plate, however, Beard was 3 for 5 with two runs scored.
"It just kind of snowballed," Schilling said. "I was upset at the time, but really, the weekend came down to those two innings. Instead of spotting the ball up, we were throwing it down the middle.
"The starters did a good job all weekend, but we were trying to limit pitch counts ahead of a week where we got to Hastings, two at Grand Island and then we go to Sioux Falls."
SATURDAY - OMAHA GROSS 6, CORNERSTONE 5
Similar to Friday, Columbus held a 5-2 lead after 5 and 1/2 but gave up four in the bottom of the inning and suffered defeat.
Cade Fullner's first-inning double scored two and was followed by Tanner Kobza's RBI-line drive to center in the second for a 3-0 Cornerstone lead.
Gross got on the board in the bottom half on two singles and a sacrifice fly then came within 3-2 on two hits including a double in the third. Columbus went back up by three when Eric Mustard doubled in the fifth then scored later on a wild pitch and Kaden Young drove in Fullner with two outs.
Gross then put together three straight two-out hits, two of them doubles, and scored four in the fifth. Cornerstone was just 1 for 7 over the final two innings.
Fullner took the loss on two innings of work and four earned runs but also drove in three runs.
"I look at the weekend as, yeah, we were 1-3, but overall we were pretty competitive for the whole weekend," Schilling said. "We just lost focus for a couple innings."
SATURDAY - HASTINGS 9, CORNERSTONE 1
In the only non-competitive game of the weekend, Hastings scored two in the first, added a third in the second then plated three more for a 6-0 lead in the fifth. Jake Schroeder limited Columbus hitters to just three hits in five innings while striking out four.
Cornerstone stranded a one-out double in the first, one-out double in the second and two-out double in the fifth.
The only Columbus run was scored by Mustard after the Scotus junior was hit by a pitch, stole second, advanced to third on an error by the catcher then scored on an error by the pitcher.
SUNDAY - CORNERSTONE 7, PAPIO-LV SOUTH 2
Columbus bounced back and salvaged one win in Omaha behind a three-run third and four-run fifth. Cornerstone broke the scoreless tie on a two-out rally that included singles by Cole Wilcox and Beard followed by a Mustard RBI line drive to left then a Fullner 2-RBI double.
Up 3-2 in the fifth, Columbus put it away on four straight one-out hits that included singles by Beard and Mustard, an RBI-double from Sam Nelson then a two-RBI double from Derek Smejkal. An error brought in Smejkal two hitters later and completed the scoring.
Alex Ritzdorf earned the win with a complete-game six-hitter with one earned, two strikeouts and two walks. Mustard was 3 for 4 while Fullner and Smejkal both drove in two runs.
Columbus Cornerstone is now 7-7 on the year and plays Tuesday at Hastings.
"It wasn't a total loss of a weekend. Just a couple innings went off track, and it cost us big time in those two games," Schilling said. "Maybe against Hastings we weren't quite as focused, and were a little down on ourselves, but we just needed to bounce back.
"That's the great thing about baseball, we don't have to wait a week to play another game. You've always got another opportunity the next to be ready to play and be sharp again."
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com.