Solon and Waterloo Columbus Catholic combined for 26 hits and 21 runs and fought a see-saw battle in the first class 2A semifinal that the Spartans eventually won, 12-9, Thursday night at Principal Park. Solon's victory is its third over the Sailors this year and clinches a spot in the finals for the Spartans after they were eliminated in the semifinals the past two years.
Top-ranked and top-seeded Solon found itself down early, 7-3, but climbed back into the game in large part because of a seven-run third inning.
Both Solon and Columbus got to work right off the bat, scoring early and often. Solon put up two runs in the top of the first on back-to-back RBI singles from Shawn Olson and Brandon Shulista to give the Spartans an early 2-0 lead.
Columbus came right back in their half of the first as the Sailors batted around. Craig Konrardy singled to begin the inning before starting pitcher Nick Day was able to retire the next two. However, the next five batters reached for Columbus. Three straight singles tied the score at 2-2 and a crucial error on second baseman Shulista allowed the inning to continue as the Sailors plated two more runs for a 4-2 lead.
Solon scored a run on an RBI single from Day to cut Columbus' lead in half in the top of the second before the Sailors batted around for the second consecutive inning.
After Konrardy was retired on a fielder's choice and Shane Kemp took first, Nick Maas doubled to put runners on second and third. Ben Knipp then hit a sharp grounder to third base as Tyler Smith fielded the ball and threw home to try and cut down Kemp. The throw deflected off the helmet of Kemp and skipped into the first base dugout to allow two runs to score. Knipp advanced to second on the error, took third on a wild pitch and scored on another wild pitch to give Columbus a 7-3 advantage.
The scoring was far from over as the top-ranked Spartans put up a seven spot in the top of the third.
Smith grounded out to begin the inning and the next six Solon players reached base and eventually scored. The big hit of the inning came from center fielder Derrick Loveless who blasted a triple to left-center field that cleared the bases for three RBIs. Solon sent 11 players to the plate and scored seven runs on five hits to give them their second lead of the game at 10-7.
Loveless led his top-ranked Spartans at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a double, triple, three RBIs and two runs scored.
The final four innings the contest were in stark contrast to the beginning of the game, as the teams combined for only three more runs.
Solon and Columbus both added a run to their tallies in the fifth inning and Solon added an extra insurance run in the top of the seventh.
Each starting pitcher didn't last very long on the mound.
Solon starter Day only pitched an inning and one-third. He gave up seven runs (four earned) on six hits.
Waterloo Columbus starting pitcher Jon Heinzman lasted two and one-third innings. Heinzman served up seven runs on six hits.
Ryan Butler (9-0) got the win for Solon. The junior tossed four and two-thirds innings and surrendered only two runs (one earned) on six hits.
Mike Letkewicz (5-4), who came on in relief for Heinzman in the third inning, picked up the loss. Letkewicz pitched four and one-third innings, giving up five runs (four earned) on six hits.