VINTON What appeared to be a game which would come down to the final batter, was decided in six innings after a strong offensive output by the home squad Friday night.
Seven Vinton-Shellsburg runs in the top of the sixth inning would doom South Tama's baseball team in its Class 3A District opener. STC hung close to Vinton-Shellsburg for five innings, but lost 12-2 in a six-inning run-ruled game.
"It's a 4-2 ballgame in the fourth inning and we are right in it," Koch said. "You have to give Vinton credit, because their kids swung the bat better than we swung it tonight. They put the ball in play and they were able to put more pressure on our defense than we were able to put on their defense. I thought that was the difference. They executed better offensively than we did.
South Tama’s Kolton Smith, center, looks at the umpire for a call after diving to home plate. Smith was called safe, scoring a run in the first inning. South Tama lost the game 12-2 and ended its season 15-14.
"It's one of those things where you hope you can get better, move on and improve for next year," he said. "But give Vinton a lot of credit, because they won the game at the plate with their bats. That's tough to beat."
The Vikings finished off South Tama in the sixth inning with offense. They scored most of their seven runs with two outs in the inning as STC struggled to record the final out.
Vinton-Shellsburg hit the ball all over the field during the top of the sixth. The Vikings hit several ground balls through the STC infield, while also hitting a few into the outfield. The Vikings scored one run in the first, one in the third, two in the fourth and one in the fifth innings.
Meanwhile, South Tama struggled to find much offense all night. The Trojans ended the game with three straight outs in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The Trojans only scored runs during the first and fourth innings. Kolton Smith led the Trojans' offene with a walk in the first inning. With Chase Schuett at first base, the Trojans tried a double steal. Schuett stole second and as the throw went toward second, Smith headed home. Smith slid around the catcher and dove for home plate, scoring the opening run for STC.
In the fourth inning, STC's Sam Kuhter added the second run of the game for the Trojans. He reached base on a walk and scored later in the inning.
Kuhter was one of a few players who moved around the Trojan's lineup on Friday. Noah Bearden injured his hand two games prior and was unable to finish the season. He usually batted in the middle of the Trojans' lineup and started at catcher.
"We had a couple hits that went right at people," Koch said. "It's just one of those things where we weren't able to find the gaps tonight. With Noah out of the lineup, we had to move some guys around. We moved Grant from the fifth to the fourth spot and Sam moved from seven to six. Then we have to find someone at five. Nate Hala came in and did a nice job at second base. I thought Dalton did a nice job behind the plate.
"It's tough in the last week of the season when you have to move guys around and put them in new spots they've never been before," he said. "Vinton took advantage of that by getting aggressive on the bases and stole some bases. That takes forces away and makes it tough. We had to adjust on both sides, but I think it was a bigger adjustment offensively and I think that showed tonight."
South Tama finished its season with a 15-14 record, which is its first winning season since 2003. STC graduated only two seniors, Jacob Clark and Schuett, but it was an emotional postgame for the Trojans' head coach.
"They've been two of my favorites," Koch said. "They really have been. Jake's started with us as an eighth grader, so he's been with us for five years. I think I started Chase as a sophomore. They've been a big part of a winning season this year. It's tough to say goodbye to them."
"We have two seniors that will be tough to replace," Koch said. "Those two batted two and three in the lineup all season and they drove in 40-some runs between the two of them. That's going to be tough to replace next year, but I think we have kids in the dugout who can step up and do that. We have the nucleus back and hopefully we can build on this year's success and be even more successful next year."
South Tama will return all but two players next year to a team that improved from four wins to 15 in one season. The pair of seniors will be tough to replace, but Koch said he will address next year with the team at a later date.
"That's something we will talk about with the underclassmen later," Koch said. "I don't think they want to talk too much about it tonight. We will talk at the banquet and I'll try and talk to each kid.
"It will be tougher next year, because we'll have a target on our back," he said. "Everybody knows who graduated and who's coming back. Being the 3A school in the west division of our league puts a big bullseye on our back when playing one of those teams."