Prep Baseball: Moser's Arm, Big Hits Power Benton Community to State
By K.J. Pilcher, Reporter
VINTON – Mitch Moser forgot his hat for a post-game team photo.
The Benton Community junior had no problem keeping his head on straight during the contest that preceded it.
Moser tossed a gem for the sixth-ranked Bobcats, powering them to a 8-0 win over Marion in the Iowa High School Athletic Association Class 3A substate 3 championship game Wednesday night at Vinton-Shellsburg’s Viking Field.
Moser allowed one hit in 6 1/3 innings, giving way to Jake Stenberg for the final two outs, sending Benton Community to the 3A state tournament next week in Des Moines. It is the ninth state appearance and first since 2009 for the Bobcats (35-7).
“It was just my command and my teammates backing me up,” Moser said. “They really had my back, coming into this. Everyone was pumped up and ready to go.”
The two teams split in the regular season, exchanging 7-1 decisions. Moser lost that first game, and said avenging that loss was sweet.
“The second game we had our backs to the wall and came out swinging,” Moser said. “Things turned around and we had more confidence this game, knowing we could pick up where we left off and keep it rolling.”
Moser and Marion’s Tyler Hedtke, who beat Moser in that first meeting, were locked in a pitcher’s duel the first three innings. They combined to give up one hit until the fourth when Benton drew first blood.
Stenberg reached on a throwing error, and courtesy runner Nate Woeste advanced to second on a passed ball. Jordan Kearns ripped a double to the right center field fence, chasing Woeste home and giving Benton a 1-0 lead.
Kearns struck again two innings later, lacing an RBI double down the left field line to score Jacob Germann, who opened with a double. Germann and Kearns sparked the four-run sixth, pacing the Benton with three hits apiece. Kearns finished with three RBIs and scored twice.
Kearns stuck to his strength at the plate to make a big impact.
“I knew that we had a good week of practice and I knew if I kept my approach we were going to be fine,” Kearns said. “If he throws me a fastball inside let the hands go.”
Karson Kuester helped ice the game, ripping a line drive base hit to center to score Kearns and Jordan McFarland in the fourth. The Bobcats padded their lead with a four-run seventh, figuring Hedtke out after a couple times through the order.
“We had to keep battling because they weren’t going to give up,” Kearns said. “We had to keep tacking on the runs.”
Moser was tough, making key pitches and receiving big plays to get out of jams. Moser recorded strikeouts for the final two outs when Marion loaded the bases in the bottom of the fourth.
McFarland contributed by making a diving catch on Christian Stekl’s tailing liner to left to end the fifth with a runner on base. Jonny Frese snagged a liner and doubled off a runner when Marion had two on base with one out in the sixth.
“We just kept our composure and stuck to our game plan,” Moser said. “We did what we do best. We knew there were going to be some adversity and we overcame it.”
Benton coach Derek Anderson said Moser was able to deliver key pitches at the most important time.
“He’s a gamer. He wanted the ball,” Anderson said. “He went out there against a good-hitting Marion team and did a great job.”
Questions arose late whether or not Moser had a no-hit bid heading into the seventh. An earlier error was overturned to a hit, a call supported by the Bobcats. Moser wasn’t concerned.
“I don’t care,” Moser said. “We’re going to state, so it’s automatic. That was our goal from the beginning of the year.”
The Bobcats have come a long way over the years, and their hard work paid dividends, achieving a goal they had since they were youths and sending the seniors to state.
“It’s a credit to our seniors,” Anderson said. “They stuck with it. They kept competing and improving. They set their sights high and got the team on board. What an amazing ride they’ve taken us on.”
The Indians had chances but didn’t capitalize the way the Bobcats did. Inexperienced hitters weren’t able to adjust to Moser.
“We did OK early,” Marion coach Steve Fish said. “We knew we’d have to put some pressure on them. We weren’t able to do that.”
Alex Charipar earned Marion’s lone hit, while Trev Biery and Addison Johnson reached base twice for the Indians. who reached the substate final for the fifth year in a row. Marion wasn’t able to claim a second straight state berth.
The Indians finish the season with a 29-13 record, tying the school record for victories. Fish didn’t expect that much success at the start of the season.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Fish said. “It’s a testament to their effort. It’s going to sting a little bit.”
What's On KCRG