Solon players celebrate their 4-0 victory over Fairfield that clinched a berth to the state tournament. Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
SOLON – Every high school baseball team in Iowa has the obvious goal of making it to the state tournament, but for the 2018 Solon Spartans, that goal was more than just wishful thinking.
The Spartans proved that on Wednesday by earning a trip to the state tournament with a 4-0 victory over Fairfield in a Class 3A sub-state final at Solon.
Sophomore Cam Miller, who is the son of Solon football coach Kevin Miller and his father’s starting quarterback, led the way with a dominant performance on the mound.
Cam Miller allowed just one hit and fanned 10 batters over 6 1/3 innings as Solon improved to 32-10 on the season.
The Spartans were determined to make the state tournament after coming so close to achieving that goal last season when it lost a nine-inning nail-biter to Marion in a sub-state final.
“We were still talking about it today,” star senior Luke Ira said of the loss to Marion. “Right before the game we were still talking about it. I don’t think we ever get over it. We use it as redemption.”
Miller struggled early with his control, evident by five walks, but he managed to pitch out of several potential jams.
“I kind of started out a little rusty, but then I kind of came into my own and I started throwing strikes a little bit more,” Miller said.
After three scoreless innings to begin the game, Solon finally struck on offense in the fourth inning as Spencer Wegmann drove in two runs with a triple.
“(My teammates) did a good job of getting on base for me, and they made him throw more pitches than he should have in that inning,” Wegmann said. “And thankfully, I was looking for my pitch and it came.”
The Spartans led 2-0 heading to the fifth inning, while Fairfield had gone hitless to that point against Miller.
Hunter Hoskins smacked a two-out double in the fifth inning, but Fairfield’s only base hit in the game produced nothing as Miller quelled the potential rally.
The Spartans added two insurance runs in the sixth inning thanks to a two-out error by Fairfield and an RBI single by Ira.
That was more than enough runs for Miller, who left the game with one out in the seventh inning and with Solon leading 4-0.
Senior Tyler Linderbaum recorded the last two outs in relief to secure the victory.
"One of Cam's strengths is he's just a big competitor," Solon coach Keith McSweeney said. "I think those first couple innings his heart rate was a little high. But once he settled in his velocity jumped and he just competed his tail off. I thought really that was the difference in the game."
Fairfield threatened to score in the third inning, but Solon centerfielder Kendrick Harris made a spectacular diving catch for the third out and with two runners on base.
“We have a great defense behind me,” Miller said. “I trust every single one of them out there, and that helps a lot.”
A strong senior class, led by the multi-talented duo of Ira and Linderbaum, helped to fuel expectations heading into the season, and now the Spartans have justified the hype by qualifying for the state tournament.
But with a state title still up for grabs, the journey is far from over.
The chance to win a state title is part of the reason Linderbaum decided to play baseball as a senior despite already having a heavy summer workload as an incoming freshman for the Iowa football team.
Linderbaum has a special bond with his Solon baseball teammates, especially his fellow seniors. They grew up playing sports together and talked about winning games like the one on Wednesday with so much on the line.
“It means the world to all of us,” Ira said. “We’ve been playing with each other since we were eight years old.”
The way last season ended makes Wednesday’s victory more special. The players were devastated after losing in the sub-state final last season, but they also have used it as motivation for this season.
“We had our sights set on this 365 days ago when we lost here,” Wegmann said.
Fairfield 000 000 0 – 0 1 0
Solon 000 202 x – 4 5 0
W – Cam Miller L – Cade Lisk
2B – FAI: Hunter Hoskins
3B – Spencer Wegmann