The O'Neill Pinnacle Bank Irish Juniors hit a speed bump in their bid for a state tournament berth Sunday, falling to Wayne 5-3 to get their first loss of the Class B Area 5 tournament in Wayne.
Both teams struggled to get going early in the game, as Justin Appleby of O'Neill and Adam Bentjen of Wayne used outstanding pitching to hold the offenses in check. Appleby shut out Wayne over the first four innings, allowing just two hits and no runs.
O'Neill got the scoring started in the fifth inning when Pete Blumenstock hit a two-run single, scoring Wyatt Liewer and Appleby. Not to be outdone, Wayne added two runs of their own in the bottom of the frame.
Wayne added three more runs in the sixth to take a 5-2 lead. O'Neill's attempt at a comeback was cut short in the top of the seventh when they loaded the bases but hit into a game-ending double play.
Liewer paced the Irish offense, going 3 for 3 from his leadoff spot. Appleby and Blumenstock each also added a hit for O'Neill.
On the mound, Appleby gave up just five hits and earned six strikeouts, despite taking the loss.
"This was a tough loss against a very good Wayne team that is 27-3 on the season, and we are 24-3," said Irish coach Greg Appleby. "We battled hard, but a few small things in tight games make the difference between the W and the L. We are still alive in this tournament and look forward to battling back starting on Monday. Our pitching staff is in good shape and our guys are ready to keep playing."
O'Neill returns to action Monday in an elimination game against Columbus Lakeview. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.