Iowa City West and Kennedy Will Meet in 4a Title Game
DES MOINES The successful intentional pickle play in the third inning was pretty cool. The grand slam in the seventh was awesome.
But in the litany of runs, hits, walks and hit batters Iowa City West had last night in an 11-2 Class 4A state baseball tournament semifinal victory over Dubuque Hempstead, please don't lose the significance of a defensive play. Yes, defense of all things.
There were actually a couple of Web Gems that helped West return to the title game for a second straight year. Center fielder Tommy Heimrich ran down a deep fly with two on and two outs in the third inning to preserve a 2-0 Trojans lead.
Then there was the 4-6-3 double play that brought a shocking end to a Hempstead rally in the sixth.
"We got the double play we needed," said West second baseman Sean Moore. "Momentum shifted right there."
Down, 6-2, Hempstead (33-4) had a run in, the bases loaded and none out in the sixth. West relief pitcher Luke Crimmins got a shallow fly ball to center for a first huge out, got ahead in the count on No. 3 hitter Andrew Redman, and threw an outside fastball that Redman hit right to second baseman Moore.
The flip to shortstop Nate Ewing and a perfect throw to first. It was inning over, rally over, game over.
"That was huge," said Crimmins, who pitched out of a bases-loaded jam the previous inning after coming in to spell starter David Rachke. "It was a fastball. I got ahead in the count. They'd been hitting it to Moore all day. Sean made the play, and they turned it really well."
"Always thinking one out in that situation," said West Coach Charlie Stumpff. "I think that's a pro mindset, looking for the double play. But defense is a really underrated part of our team."
Underrated because of the offense these Trojans (30-8) typically produce. Ryan Rumpf had a two-run double in a four-run fourth that put West up, 6-0, and Moore put this one to bed in the seventh with a drive to left that sneaked over the tall fence in left for a grand slam.
"The middle of our lineup is just hitting the ball so well right now," said Stumpff, whose team plays Cedar Rapids Kennedy in tonight's 8 p.m. title game. "If the middle of your lineup is going to give you quality at-bats, that's going to give you a chance."
Kennedy beat Mason City in the other semi-final 10-2. The Cougars scored 8 runs to blow it open in the top of the 7th.
West had eight hits (three from Moore), eight walks and three hit batters. West and Hempstead split a June double-header, which was the last time the Mustangs had been beaten.
That was a 21-game win streak, emphasis on the word "was."
"We've been here before, we know what to expect," Moore said. "We're going to come out here tomorrow and show people that we know what we're doing."