SLATER - A one-run game, noisy dugouts and a pitching ace were all part of Tuesday's high school baseball game here between South Tama and Ballard.
It was the Trojans' final preparations for Friday's Class 3A District game at Vinton and it had the feel of a postseason contest. Unfortunately for the Trojans, they came up a hit or two short.
Ballard (14-17-1) grabbed an early lead and held on to win 4-3. South Tama finished its regular season 15-13.
South Tama's Kolton Smith slides past the Ballard catcher to score a run during the third inning.
"It was a fun game to play," head coach Seth Koch said. "It was a good high school baseball game. I thought it was a nice ballgame for the kids to learn something and get ready for districts on Friday."
South Tama had a chance to tie the game in the final two innings as it trailed by one run after five innings. In the sixth inning, the Trojans' first two batters struck out. Kaleb Davenport kept the inning alive by earning a walk, but the inning ended with a Kolton Smith ground-out.
In the seventh inning, Chase Schuett gave STC a chance as he was walked with one out. However, the next two Trojans went down swinging, ending the game.
"They bring in the (Brennan) Manfull kid, who's one of the best pitchers in the state," Koch said. "He came in, shut the door and did what he's supposed to do. Like I told the kids, this is what tournament baseball is like. This had a tournament atmosphere to it and we have to be ready to play."
Ballard's Brennan Manfull has started eight games this season with a 5-3 record, while also pitching in four other contests. He has recorded 98 strikeouts with a 2.56 ERA and batting averages are .104 against him this season.
"We had guys on base and were waiting for somebody to get that big hit," Koch said. "We got it a couple of times, but other times we didn't. It's going to come down to whoever makes the fewest mistakes and whoever gets the big hit when it's clutch time."
South Tama scored one run in the third, fourth and fifth innings as it stayed within striking distance of the Bombers. Smith scored in the third inning with a close play at home. He reached base with a double and stole third base. Schuett hit a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Smith.
Nate Hala scored the next run in the fourth inning. He reached first on a fielder's choice and moved to second when Dalton Doyle was walked. Davenport hit a single through the middle, which sent Hala home. The Bombers' centerfielder fired the ball home, but Hala barely beat the tag as he slid into home plate.
Schuett added the third run in the fifth inning. Tank Keckler started the inning with a walk, but was out at second when Schuett hit a fielder's choice single. Schuett stole second, before coming home on an RBI single from Grant Koch.
South Tama struggled at the plate early in the game. Four STC batters struck out in the first two innings. STC had one hit and one walk during those innings.
"We should have jumped on their starter earlier," Koch said. "We just came out of the gate slow and that's been typical for us. Sometimes we wait with our bats until the end, but you have to get a couple runs on the board early and give your starter some confidence. That makes all the difference in the world."
Ballard scored one run in the first inning after it's leadoff batter hit a double and scored two batters later. Ballard added two runs in the second inning, before scoring its last in the fourth inning.
"From a defensive standpoint, I think we were solid," I don't think we committed an error. Pitching wise, Jake (Clark) went out and got roughed up in the first. They hit Sam a bit in the second. I thought Tank did a super job. He pitched the last four innings and only gave up the one run."
The Trojans will try and move on from the loss. They open district play at 7 p.m. tonight in Vinton. The Trojans played Vinton Shellsburg (17-23), who's lost 11 of its last 12, in their second game of the season, but lost 14-2 after giving up six runs in the first and sixth innings.
"We did not throw well that night," Koch said. "We struggled on the mound a bit. We were also poor defensively with six errors in the first three innings.
"We're a lot different ball club than we were that first week," he said. "Everybody is 0-0 starting on Friday. It's a matter of us playing like we did tonight, but getting a couple extra big hits."