Article Comment Submission Form
|7/20/2013 ||Email this article Print this article |
Eagles strike late, topple Warriors in district semis
|Cal-Wheat senior Justin Alden hits a fly-ball during the first inning of the Warriors’ 1A district semifinal with Midland, Thursday night. Alden and the Warriors jumped out to a 2-0 lead over the Eagles, but Midland tied things up and eventually pulled in front with three runs in the fifth inning of an eventual 7-2 win.
Photos by Ross Eberhart|
By Ross Eberhart
It is a cliché that gets thrown around a lot, but sometimes sports can by truly be a "game of inches."
The Calamus-Wheatland baseball team knows it better than anyone.
With one out and a runner on second, the Warriors seemed poised to break a 2-2 tie in the fifth inning of Thursday night's 1A semifinal with Midland, especially when Danny Solis lined a pitch to left field.
Eagles left fielder Ben Carstensen sprinted in on the hit and, at the last second, made a lunging dive to catch the ball just before it hit the ground.
A couple of inches shorter and the ball would have bounced into Carstensen's glove or possibly even skittered away.
Instead, Carstensen made the play and alertly fired the ball to second to double off the Warriors and end the inning.
The momentum of the play carried into the bottom of the inning as well and it was the Eagles who broke the tie with three runs.
Midland tacked on two insurance runs in the sixth and that created the final difference in a 7-2 Eagle win that brought an end to the Warriors' season.
Cal-Wheat, who batted first on their home field, got off to a great start in the game as Christian Hansen opened the game with a double to the gap in left-center.
Solis went to move him over with a sacrifice bunt, but ended up reaching base himself when Midland pitcher Colton Dirks slipped, while trying to field the play.
Dirks still attempted to get Solis out at first despite being forced to throw from a sitting position and the toss got away from the first baseman, allowing Hansen to come around for the first run of the game.
The Warriors added to their lead an inning later.
This time, Nolan Christensen coaxed a walk on a 3-2 pitch and then stole second.
Midland came back with the second out of the inning, but Garrett Rickels legged out an infield single to put runners on the corners and Christensen scored on a grounder by Hansen when the Eagle second baseman overthrew the first baseman.
Unfortunately, the lead would not last long as Midland opened the bottom of the inning with a single and a hit batsman and had both players score on a Warrior throwing error.
The Eagles threatened again in the third, putting runners on second and third, but Warrior pitcher John Diercks extinguished the threat by inducing a fly-ball to left.
Midland stranded two more base runners in the fourth and Cal-Wheat followed it up in the top of the fifth by getting a lead-off walk from Rickels.
A pop-up produced the first out of the inning, but Rickels moved into scoring position anyway on a wild pitch. Solis hit his line drive and the Warriors seemed ready to go back on top.
Carstensen, though, made the diving catch and fired to second for the double play and suddenly it was the Eagles with all of the momentum.
Midland used it too, loading the bases with no outs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Diercks came up with a huge strikeout (after being behind 3-0 in the count) for the first out and then got the next Midland hitter to ground to Rickels at second.
A hard slide at second, though, not only prevented the double play, but also kept the Warriors from recording one out as the throw got away from a leaping Hansen at the bag.
Two Eagles scored on the play and another advanced to third. The next Midland batter hit a fly-ball to center. Christensen made the catch and fired the ball home in attempt to get the tagging runner.
The throw was just late, but the Warriors also believed that the runner left early from third and made an appeal. The umpire, though, ruled the runner left on time and it was 5-2.
Cal-Wheat went down in order in the top of the sixth (including a close play at first on a grounder by Alden that was again decided by inches) and the Eagles struck again in the bottom of the inning, using two hits and another Warrior error to plate two more runs.
Christensen drew a one-out walk in the top of the seventh to give the Warriors a glimmer of hope, but a groundout and a strikeout ended the game.
Hansen, Solis and Rickels provided the hits in the game with Hansen and Christensen scoring the Warrior runs.
Diercks took the hard-luck loss, allowing just four hits in five innings of work and not giving up an earned run.
The setback came two days after the Warriors opened their postseason with a flourish in a 19-0 rout of Prince of Peace.
It was all Warriors in the game as Cal-Wheat pounded out 11 hits, scored 11 runs in the third inning alone and received a strong pitching performance from Nick Houzenga.
The freshman allowed just three balls to be put into the play the entire game and did not allow a single hit, while striking out nine batters.
The Warriors gave Houzenga plenty of support, starting right away in the first inning.
Solis got things rolling with a walk and Diercks earned his own free pass before Alden got Cal-Wheat on the board with a single to right.
Austin Houzenga brought in another run when he reached on an error before Christensen provided the capper on the inning when he knocked in two with a double.
After failing to add to their lead in the second, the Warriors more than made up for it with a monster third inning.
Alden opened the frame with a double to deep left and then scored moments later when A. Houzenga clobbered his own double.
N. Houzenga topped them both with a triple to left-center to bring in another run, while Christensen and Kolton Steward were both hit by pitches to load the bases.
Rickels, meanwhile, drew a walk on just four pitches to plate another run, and the very next pitch hit Hansen to make it 9-0.
Solis drew his own walk for another run before Prince of Peace got the first out of the inning.
Alden came right back, though, with a single to drive in Hansen, while A. Houzenga and Christensen both drew walks (passed balls during their at-bats allowed both Solis and Alden to score). Steward finished off the big inning with a two-run double and the Warriors led 15-0.
That was more than enough support for N. Houzenga, who walked the bases loaded on two occasions, but got out of both jams with strikeouts.
Cal-Wheat added four final runs in the top of the fourth inning and, when Prince of Peace was unable to answer in the bottom of the frame, the Warriors had their victory.
Alden led the Warriors with three hits and the senior also scored four times and drove in three runs. A. Houzenga, N. Houzenga and Christensen all had two hits in the game with A. Houzenga driving in a team-best four runs (Riley Rowold scored three runs in the game as A. Houzenga's courtesy runner).