Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – It looked bleak for Cedar Rapids Washington after the first four West High batters reached base and two scored.
Runners were at second and third with no one out when Warrior pitching coach Kelly O’Rourke went to the mound for a visit.
Warrior pitcher Jacob Bockenstedt extricated himself from the jam by striking out the next three batters.
Bockenstedt performed the Houdini-like escape again in the second and third innings and was in command the rest of the way in Washington’s 5-2 upset of the fourth-ranked Trojans in a Class 4A substate final at West High.
“I took a deep breath, realized I had a great team behind me and we’re not going to quit, so I did my part and I just kept throwing strikes and everyone kept making plays,” Bockenstedt said.
Washington (25-17) advances to the state tournament at Principal Park in Des Moines next week. West finished its season 30-11.
“This is a great group of seniors,” West coach Charlie Stumpff said. “I think this is the biggest group we’ve ever had. They just make it work. It’s been a joy coming here every day.”
Bockenstedt (7-1) finished with 11 strikeouts in his six innings. He had to be removed from the game after six innings because of pitch-count limits after throwing 112 pitches.
“It was definitely location. I think I was just a little too amped up for tonight,” Bockenstedt said of his shaky start. “I was just a little wild.”
West’s Lucas Karwal led off the game with a booming triple and scored on a passed ball with Nick Biancuzzo at the plate.
Biancuzzo walked, and Braden Houston ripped a double down the leftfield line to score the second run. Jason Strunk blooped a ball to center and ended up with a double, but Biancuzzo was held at third.
Then Bockenstedt took over, striking out the next three batters and stranding the two runners in scoring position.
With runners on second and third and one out in the second inning he struck out the next two men.
In the third West loaded the bases, and Bockenstedt struck out the next hitter and got the final out on a fielder’s choice.
“I tend to try to work out of trouble so far this year, and it happened again tonight,” Bockenstedt admitted.
“I think he’s just a really good competitor,” Stumpff said. “He’s pitched for three or four years. The game was on the line he just, the old expression is he bowed his neck and played a little hardball.
“We left several runners on the first three innings. We’ve got (starter) Braden but we’re not giving ourselves any wiggle room. They played a little cleaner, a little better than us.”
Houston (6-3) held the Warriors scoreless until the fourth when two errors and two wild pitches resulted in a run. But it was the fifth inning that did in the Trojans.
Washington’s Rimmy Nemickas doubled to lead off, and then Bockenstedt bunted into no-man’s land to the right side of the infield.
With infielders moving to cover bases and field the bunt no one was home at the usual second base position, and Nemickas scored from second on Bockenstedt’s crafty single.
“I had a feeling, because you can’t cover all areas of the field with runners on and you’re bunting. Everybody’s going to be moving, so I know we worked on it in practice, push bunting over to second base so I gave it a shot,” he said. “It worked perfectly.”
With the game tied Lincoln Riley singled, and Stumpff brought in Austin West to relieve Houston.
He struck out the first batter. A wild pitch moved runners to second and third, and Drew Christensen hit a chopper up the middle to knock in both for a 4-2 lead.
“When you get that pitch you just have to see it early and hit it out into the field,” he said.
Christensen drove in an insurance run in the seventh, doubling in Riley, who had been hit by a pitch by reliever Marcus Morgan.
After the first three innings West managed only two hits, both by Jason Strunk.
The Trojans did put two men on with two out in the bottom of the seventh against reliever Benjamin Janssen, but the game ended on a strikeout, the 13th of the game for West.
“It’s a tough matchup,” Stumpff conceded. “We strike out a lot. You’d hope we’d put it in play more, but he was throwing hard and he had a good breaking ball and he’s been there before. A lesser guy could have panicked and given up four or five runs early.”
CR Washington 000 130 1 – 5 8 1
West High 200 000 0 – 2 7 2
W – Jacob Bockenstedt L – Braden Houston SV – Benjamin Janssen
3B – ICW: Lucas Karwal
2B – ICW: Jason Strunk (2), Braden Houston; CRW: Drew Christensen, Rimmy Nemickas