Rough Day On Offense for Metro Baseball Teams at State
DES MOINES – No execution, no clutch hits, no runs. No state championship.
No more season, for that matter.
Just way too many nos all the way around Wednesday night for Cedar Rapids Xavier in a 1-0 loss to Sioux City East in a Class 4A state baseball tournament quarterfinal.
"We played really good baseball," said Xavier's Mitch Keller. "Hats off to them. They played a little bit better."
The top of the seventh inning was this game in a microcosm for Xavier (25-16). Keller walked leading off against East reliever Trey Lapke, and Bryce Grimm was hit by a 3-0 pitch.
Corbin Woods took a strike, failed to get a sacrifice bunt down and eventually struck out looking. After another strikeout, Zach Brown walked to load the bases, but Jordan Ratz struck out swinging at a 2-2 fastball.
The Saints stranded the bases loaded twice and left 11 men on base. They failed three times to get a sacrifice bunt down when called upon to do so. They had a long Woods fly ball to left-center field caught near the warning track. They had what looked like an extra-base hit to right-center field taken away by a terrific diving catch.
By the way, the Metro had two teams play here Wednesday (Linn-Mar was the other) and neither scored. Fooey to you, Principal Park.
"Pretty much frustrating," Ratz said. "Not exactly a storybook ending. But I wouldn't want to do it with anyone else. I had some great teammates."
"Those (bunts) probably hurt a little bit, but it still comes down to getting those two-out hits," said Xavier Coach Dave Schemmel. "Gosh, we had guys on base every inning. Every single inning. Had guys on third base a couple of times. Good teams get those hits. I mean, we're a good team. But to win games at state, you've got to get two-out hits."
East starting pitcher Davis Camarigg (9-0) threw the first six innings, with Lapke, somewhat surprisingly, coming on for the seventh. He was shaky, to say the least, but got the outs when absolutely needed.
"He's been closing games for us for three years," East Coach Jared Ocker explained, when asked why he removed Camarigg.
"Whew," Lapke said, taking a deep breath. "That's all I can say ... I found the zone, eventually."
Keller took the loss, though he pitched well enough to get a no decision at the very least. The junior right-hander, committed to the University of North Carolina, scattered five hits, walked one and struck out six.
East (31-9), which came in hitting .368 as a team, got the only run of the game in the fifth on a Dom Thompson-Williams RBI single to left-center.
"Mitch threw a great game," Woods said. "We just couldn't get any runs for him."
Johnston 2 Linn Mar 0
So much for that theory about having to hit to win baseball games. What a bunch of bunk.
Honestly, Johnston didn't even need a hit Wednesday afternoon to beat Linn-Mar, 2-0, in a Class 4A state tournament quarterfinal at Principal Park. The Dragons got one, just one, literally walking their way to the semifinals.
"It's tough to defend ball four," Linn-Mar Coach Chad Lechner said. "They didn't have to, we did a little bit. That's really what today's game comes down to."
In a lot of ways, Linn-Mar (27-16) should have felt fortunate it still had an opportunity for its first state tourney win the way the first half of the ballgame went. Starter Justin Wyant (6-3) could not get into any sort of groove and was all over the place with his pitches.
Through four innings, Johnston (27-12) had seven walks, three stolen bases and was the beneficiary of two Wyant wild pitches, yet had only one run. That came on a two-out wild pitch in the second.
"It's a little nerveracking when the strike zone's a little smaller," Wyant said. "One thing leads to another. I got mad at myself a couple of times. Try to battle through it as much as I can. There's nothing more I could do, I guess."
Wyant was lifted for Austin Stroschein after a leadoff walk to start the fifth inning, and Stroschein gave up Johnston's only hit: a leadoff double off the wall in right-center by Trevor McCauley in the sixth. He scored on, what else, a wild pitch.
Just one of those days for the Lions, who contrarily did very little offensively against hard-throwing Joe Hawks. The right-hander's fastball has been clocked as high as 91 miles per hour, though it didn't seem to approach that territory here.
It was still good enough.
"I thought everything went well," said Hawks, who gave up three hits and struck out eight. "I was fine as long as I hit my spots and got ahead."
"He throws a lot of strikes," Linn-Mar's Jimmy Roth said. "Locates a lot, outside and inside. Curveballs and changeups ... He's a good pitcher. We battled, but I guess it wasn't enough."
Linn-Mar's best chance to score came in the second. Roth led off with a double, and the Lions had runners on the corners with one out.
But Hawks struck out Caleb Reimer and Ben Larson to end the threat. Larson doubled with two outs in the fifth but was stranded.
Banks walked with one out in the seventh, but Brandt Ollinger banged into a 6-4-3 double play that ended it.
"He just hit spots, mixed it up really well," Stroschein said. "That's all you can ask of a pitcher. We battled on the defensive side, we just couldn't do it on the offensive side. It sucks, but we battled."