Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Todd Becker’s Regina baseball team lost to City High 6-5 on Saturday, but did so in a way that was fitting under the unique circumstances.
The Regals were trailing 6-5 with two outs in the top of seventy inning when Becker had his son, sophomore Chase Becker, try to steal home with Little Hawk ace Brady Herzic pitching in relief.
Chase Becker was called out in a very close play at home plate. The umpire waited briefly to confirm that City High catcher J.D. Alberhasky had the ball in his glove before signaling the out and ending the game.
Fans from both teams looked bewildered when the game ended because it isn’t often that a team makes the final out while trying to steal home when trailing by just one run.
But Todd Becker had his reasons for being aggressive in that situation, and those reasons say a lot about Regina's first-year head coach.
“We talked about that at the beginning of year; we’re going to be aggressive on the base paths all the time and no matter what,” Becker said. “And I’m not going to veer from that philosophy and these guys know that.
“We work on that in practice every single day about being aggressive on the base paths. We’ve gotten caught stealing a couple times, but that’s just going to happen. You’ve got to learn from it.”
Todd Becker is also a fighter, and Saturday’s game was played in honor of another fighter whose legacy shined brightly at Duane Banks Field.
City High’s victory over Regina was part of the fifth annual Fight With Flash Crosstown Classic, which features three games between six local teams.
The event is held in honor of Austin “Flash” Schroeder, who died from cancer in 2015 at the age of 15.
Schroeder was an talented and devoted baseball player, and was so swift around the base paths that he was given the nickname Flash.
He grew up in Coralville and touched the hearts of so many with how courageously he battled against cancer, determined to win each day and to never give up.
Todd Becker knows exactly what it means to never give up because he is a cancer survivor, and so is his wife. Todd overcame prostate cancer, while his wife did the same against breast cancer.
But Todd also knows the devastation from losing a loved one to the dreaded disease as he lost his father to prostate cancer and his mother to breast cancer.
So Saturday’s crosstown matchup was more than just a baseball game.
“It’s a great experience, being a cancer survivor myself,” Todd Becker said of coaching in the Crosstown Classic. “It tugs at my heart. My wife is, too. So we both had cancer and we lost some parents to cancer. So yeah, this is a big deal for us.
"It's a big part of our lives making sure that we're giving bck to the community for cancer research a the University of Iowa, all that type of stuff."
Austin Schroeder was admired for his toughness and his willingness to go down fighting, and Todd Becker was determined to honor that legacy on Saturday.
“That’s right. Go down fighting, just like Flash,” Todd Becker said.
As for the play that ended the game, Herzic looked out of the corner of his eye and couldn’t believe what he saw as he started to throw a pitch.
Chase Becker was racing towards home plate in an attempt to steal home with his team trailing 6-5 with two outs in the top of the seventh inning.
Herzic’s pitch skidded near home plate, but City High catcher J.D. Alberhasky grabbed the ball and tagged Becker out in a bang-bang play to end the game.
“I was very surprised,” Herzic said of the attempt to steal home. “I did not think they would do that.”
Todd Becker decided to take a chance because he was certain that Herzic would throw a curve ball and because Herzic was pitching from his wind-up rather than from the stretch.
That meant it would take slightly more time for the ball to reach home plate, and Todd Becker was hoping that it would be enough time to tie the score.
“I knew he was going to go breaking ball that next pitch in that situation there,” Todd Becker said. “He was going from the wind-up, so I thought we had a pretty good chance of stealing that base.”
Todd Becker’s aggressiveness and willingness to go down fighting drew praise from his opposing head coach.
“He’s a fighter over there, you can tell that,” City High coach Brian Mitchell said of Becker. “It was a great opportunity for them. It was a great chance, smart baseball. And we were just very fortunate that it worked out at the end.”
City High improved to 10-3 on the season, while Regina fell to 3-7 in Todd Becker’s first season as head coach.
“It’s a process,” Todd Becker said. “.We’ve got a young team. We’re still learning the game a little bit, and they’re going to make mistakes. That happens. But for us, we’ve got to just stop the free bases and make the routine play and I think we’ll be alright coming down the stretch.”
Both teams made a lot of mistakes in Saturday’s game, from fielding miscues to poor base running to failing to hit in the clutch.
Regina had as many errors (4) as hits, while City High had three errors and just four hits.
City High freshman Cade Obermueller made his first varsity start and left the game with his team leading 6-3 in the fourth inning. Obermueller struggled at times with his control, but he also didn’t get much help on defense.
“We were just talking to our kids about the end result is what we came here for,” Mitchell said. “We were flat. We didn’t handle the adjustments in the batter’s box I don’t think very well. And we had Cade Obermueller coming out on his first outing and I thought he actually did a really nice job. We didn’t defend for him, and normally, we’re pretty good that way. I just think we were a little flat. Late night last night at Cedar Falls. They came out and we gave them some energy and they took advantage of it.”
Senior D.J. Heck had two hits, scored two runs and drove in a run to lead the Little Hawk offense.
Mitchell had planned on using Herzic as his closer on Saturday if the circumstances called for it.
“That’s what we were working towards, is trying to make sure that he had the ball when it mattered,” Mitchell said. “We had to keep his pitch count down because we’re going to come back with him on Monday. We wanted to see what Cade could give us and he did what we would have hoped for, and maybe even a little more.”
Herzic was pleased with the win, but not with his team's performance.
"It’s a good win, but we’ve still got a lot to work on,” Herzic said. “We did not have the energy that we should have, and we didn’t play like we usually do.”
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