HS Baseball: Seventh-Inning Balk Gives Mount Vernon The Victory Over Regina
By Jeff Johnson (Story) and Josh Christensen (Video)
WEST BRANCH Jeremy Elliott was the first one to scream something. His catcher, Conner Welch, may have permament hearing loss because of it.
"Coach was yelling in my ear, 'That's a balk! That's a balk!'" Welch said with a smile.
Loud or not, the umpires agreed with the Mount Vernon coach. It was a balk on Iowa City Regina pitcher Ian Probst in the top of the seventh inning that allowed Welch to score the only run in a 1-0 Class 2A district final win.
What a unique way to move within a game of the state baseball tournament. What a crappy, cruddy way to have your season end.
"We didn't lose the game because of the balk," said Regina Coach Andy Gahan. "A timely hit would have been good in a couple of innings there."
Probst and Cal Kragenbrink dueled throughout this exceptionally played thriller. Each allowed just four hits, with Probst striking out 11.
Welch led off the seventh with a sharp single through the left side, was bunted to second and went to third on a Jake Pisarik single to right. With Spenser Drahos up, Probst stepped slightly forward with his front, left foot while on the rubber and broke his hands.
Elliott yelled, the umps called time, sent Welch home and Pisarik to second. Probst took off his cap and placed it over his face in disgust.
"The kid had done it a couple of other times when we had guys on second," Elliott said. "Not that blatantly. But he would come set, break his hands and then step off."
"I think he was a little startled," Welch said. "He wasn't thinking what was going on. He didn't even think about it, he just stepped off."
Regina (24-13) didn't go quietly in the bottom of the seventh, hitting the ball hard all three times. But MV third baseman Marquis Dew made a neat short-hop pickup of a grounder, second baseman Drahos made a diving stop of a ball appeared headed up the middle and left fielder Luke Hansen ran down a long fly to end it.
Defense was the theme of the night for Mount Vernon (25-14), which plays Northeast Goose Lake (24-8) in a 2A substate final Tuesday night at Solon. The Mustangs threw out Regina's Mark Ward at the plate to end the sixth as he tried to score from first on a John Ries single to right-center.
Center fielder Pisarik bobbled the hit, which prompted Gahan to rightfully be aggressive, but recovered in time to throw a strike to cutoff man Trey Ryan, who threw home to Welch on the fly.
Ward was out easily.
"We have to take that chance," Gahan said. "The kid's got to make a perfect throw, and he did."
"I went behind third base to back up there," Kragenbrink said. "I saw that our center fielder was kind of bobbling it, so I basically ran with the runner down the third-base line. We got him."