Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
DES MOINES – In a game where scoring chances were few and far between Solon and Sioux City Heelan each had a golden opportunity in their final at bat.
It was the Crusaders that seized the opportunity.
Colin Kasperbauer drove in the game-winning run with a single in the eighth inning as sixth-ranked Heelan (32-10) returned to the state semifinals with a 3-2 win over fifth-ranked Solon in a Class 3A quarterfinal at Principal Park in Des Moines.
The walk-off single for Kasperbauer came after Solon left the bases loaded in the top of the inning and earned Heelan a semifinal rematch with defending 3A champion Davenport Assumption at 1:30 p.m. on Friday.
“We had our opportunities, we had the bases loaded with one out and a 3-0 count you feel pretty good about that but he made some good pitches and got out of that jam and I really thought that was the difference in the game,” Solon coach Keith McSweeney said. “There is lots to be proud of but it stings and it’s going to sting for a little while.”
The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for Solon, which closed the season 32-11.
It also marked the end of a remarkable run for a Solon senior Class that helped the Spartans win 81 games and appear in two state tournaments over the past three seasons.
“It’s just tough knowing I’ll never play with those guys again,” Solon senior shortstop Luke Ira said. “We’ve been playing together since we were eight years old so it’s hard.”
For the second time in its last three games Solon found itself in an early hole.
Sophomore starter Cam Miller issued back-to-back walks to open the game and both came around to score as Heelan took a 2-0 first-inning lead.
“I think it was maybe nerves, I was pretty nervous when the game starts and I’m really amped up,” Miller said of the early walks. Once I settle in I got better but the first two I walked and they ended up scoring and that’s kind of devastating.”
Solon managed just three hits in the first five innings against Heelan starter Christian Velasquz but finally broke through in the sixth.
Ira pounded a one-out triple that caromed off the center field fence just below the 400 sign and scored on a two-out RBI double to right center field by fellow senior Tyler Linderbaum.
“We’ve had to deal with a lot of adversity, we started one of our playoff games down 4-0 and we’ve fought through everything,” Ira said. “That’s what we did today we just came up a little short.”
Solon pulled even when Adam Bock shot a single down the first base line that scored Linderbaum from second and tied the game at 2-2.
Miller retired Heelan in order in the bottom of the inning and the Spartans had a chance to take the seventh but couldn’t get a baserunner.
“With the two runs we got I thought that we had the momentum and I thought we were going to seal it in the seventh,” Ira said. “We just couldn’t do it.”
After the two first-inning runs Miller was spectacular.
The sophomore right-hander allowed just two runs on four hits while striking out four and walking three in 7 1/3 innings.
He had stretches of eight and six batters retired in a row after the first inning and set down eight of the final nine batters he faced allowing just a two-out double to Tom Schiltz in the seventh.
Miller was removed with one out in the eighth after hitting the pitch count limit.
“I thought he really settled in, a couple of early walks and they made him play but then he really gutted up and competed,” McSweeney said. “He hits the number but it’s there for a reason and I think if we left it up to Cam he probably would have thrown 200 pitches today.”
Solon had a chance to seize control in the top of the eighth.
Ryan Geistkemper led off the inning with an infield hit and Ira drew a walk.
After a sacrifice bunt by Kendrick Harris an intentional walk to Linderbaum loaded the bases with one out.
Kasperbauer had a 3-0 count against Bock but battled back and got the junior catcher to dribble a ground ball in front of the mound and got the force out at home for the second out.
He escaped the jam when he got Miller to ground out to short.
We got the bases loaded and we were hoping to scratch out at least one and they made some good pitches,” McSweeney said. “I think the kid was 3-0 and he made some good pitches so that’s to their credit.”
Heelan wouldn’t miss out on its opportunity.
Three consecutive one out singles by Jackson Boever, Cael Boever and Kasperbauer resulted in a walk-off winner.
Kasperbauer hit a seeing-eye single to right field past the outstretched glove of a diving Chris McSweeney on the first pitch from Ira scoring Jackson Boever from second for the game-winner.
“It was a first pitch fastball and he got into it,” Heelan coach Andy Osborne said. “After the first inning we went into cruise control a little bit and then it came apart on us. I think it’s a real testament to their resolve that they could work through a bases loaded jam. We got out of that and put ourselves in a lot of danger today but credit Solon that’s a really, really good ball club. That’s a pretty tough first-round opponent. Our kids battled and I’m proud of them.
Solon 000 002 00 – 2 7 0
Sioux City Heelan 200 000 01 – 3 7 1
W – Colin Kasperbauer L – Tyler Linderbaum
2B – SOL: Cam Miller, Tyler Linderbaum; SCH: Tom Schiltz
3B – SOL: Luke Ira