The Wayne High baseball team was one strike away from reaching the finals of the Class C State Baseball Championships.
Omaha Roncalli found a way Wednesday, rallying for three runs in the top of the seventh and then holding off the Blue Devils at the end for a 5-4 win to move on to Friday’s championship game against Malcolm.
The Blue Devils needed to win two to reach the finals for the first time since 1976 and forced a second game with a 4-2 win at Warrior Field, thanks to a grand slam homer by senior Brooks Kneifl.
The Blue Devils trailed 1-0 in the third when they loaded the bases. Alex Rodriguez singled, Devin Anderson reached on a fielder’s choice and Gavin Redden beat out an infield bunt to set up Kneifl, who sent a 1-2 fastball over the wall in right center to put Wayne ahead to stay.
Kneifl took in from there on the mound, striking out 11 and walking two while allowing four hits to force the second game.
In the finals, Roncalli picked up two early, but Wayne utilized four walks and a hit batter to score three and lead until the end as Wyatt Heikes pitched a solid outing before hitting the 110-pitch limit in the seventh inning.
Wayne added an insurance run in the sixth when they loaded the bases and scored on a suicide squeeze bunt by Heikes that brought home Anderson.
The Blue Devils were one strike away from victory when Roncalli mounted its comeback, getting three hits and two walks to put three on the board. Wayne was able to get Anderson on base in the seventh, but couldn’t bring him around.
Roncalli will face Malcolm in Friday’s 1 p.m. championship game at UNO’s Anderson Field. The Blue Devils, who were 5-6 early in the season, finish with a 17-9 record.
(Complete coverage in next week’s edition of The Wayne Herald.)
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