Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Traffic on the bases was something like Los Angeles at rush hour, but too many were left idling to save City High’s season in a substate semifinal against Pleasant Valley at Mercer Park Monday.
The Spartans scored in five of the seven innings and their two insurance runs in the seventh were back breakers for the Little Hawks, as Pleasant Valley prevailed 10-9.
The Spartans (24-11) will play at Linn-Mar Wednesday for the right to go to the state tournament. City High finished its season 25-16.
After the first inning, when Pleasant Valley led off with four runs in the top half and City High answered with five in the bottom half, this game had the feel of a free-for-all.
And in the end it came down to the final play with City High leaving the tying run at third. The Little Hawks left 11 runners on base from the third through the seventh innings.
City High showed its mettle after giving up four runs on three hits with three errors in the top of the first.
The Little Hawks responded with five runs on four hits. Zach Kuepker doubled in Gable Mitchell and Liam McComas.
D.J. Heck’s hard smash to second was misplayed and scored a third run. Then with two out Sam Lewers doubled to left centerfield for two more runs.
“Well, we’ve been used to it,” Kuepker said. “We’ve had a lot of that adversity. Burlington, the game before, we came back being down five runs. We were kind of just used to it; we liked it.”
“We’ve been there; we were there Friday,” City High coach Brian Mitchell said. “We knew we had a long way to go. They responded unbelievably well.”
On the other hand, the Spartans didn’t panic either.
“These guys have played a lot of baseball, and over the past month we’ve been playing very well,” PV coach Derek Stecklein said. “They know we’re never out of the fight.”
Pleasant Valley tied the game at five in the top of the second on doubles by Jack Young and Jose Lara, but City responded with two more runs to lead 7-5 when PV starter Max Slavens all of a sudden couldn’t find the plate.
The Spartans tied the game in the fourth, chasing City High starter Ry Threlkeld-Wiegand after a single, hit batsman and a walk.
Carter Hoskins’ sacrifice fly scored one, and Ryan Mumey’s single scored the second run.
They took the lead 8-7 in the fifth after a triple by the ninth-place hitter, Kyle McDermott and a single by Lara.
In the meantime City went scoreless against Slavin and reliever Seth Clausen in the third through sixth innings leaving nine baserunners stranded.
“We had some opportunities to expand that lead, and it didn’t happen,” Brian Mitchell said. “But that’s the game. They had a lot more hits, but we were right there in the end and had our chances.”
A double down the left-field line, a triple down the right-field line and a single to left scored two insurance runs in the seventh for the Spartans.
They needed both.
City High put two men on with a walk and an error. Zach Kuepker singled in one run and another scored on a wild pitch.
City High had runners at first and third with one out and trailing 10-9. But a strikeout and a bunt fielded successfully by Clausen ended the threat.
“They are an unbelievable team,” Stecklein said. “They are very, very good. They don’t give away at-bats. They fought until that very last at-bat.”
The two teams played on June 26 at Mercer Park and City High won 8-6.
“The difference between this game and the earlier game is we scored some runs late,” Stecklein said.
“They got more bloop hits this time. They just hit it where we weren’t,” Kuepker said.
Kuepker finished with three hits and two RBIs. Lewers was on base three of his four times, had two hits and two RBIs.
Liam McComas scored three runs and Gable Mitchell scored twice.
Coach Mitchell praised his seniors for embracing the younger players.
“We knew we had a good senior group,” he said. “We’re going to miss them.”
Pleasant Valley 410 210 2 – 10 14 2
City High 520 000 2 – 9 7 4
W – Seth Clausen (3-0) L – Reese Hayden (6-2)
3B – PV: Carter Hoskins, Kyle McDermott, Eric Clifton. ICH: Zach Kuepker
2B – PV: Jack Young, Jose Lara, Kyle McDermott. ICH: Sam Lewers
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