Clinging to a three-run lead, while your opponent has bases loaded with only one out in the bottom of the extra inning.
That was the situation for South Tama County's baseball team Friday evening. The Trojans had to wait 17 days to finish the game, which was postponed June 11 because of lightning.
"It was nerve-racking to be thinking about the situation for a couple of weeks," STC head coach Seth Koch said. "You're thinking, good grief they have the bases loaded and you only have an out, but you have a three-run lead."
South Tama wiggled its way out of the jam and beat AGWSR 7-5 Friday night. The two North Iowa Cedar League West Division teams played a second game and the Trojans once again won, 11-3. It was their fourth win in four games last week.
"It was kind of a weird way to start a game," Koch said. "In 24 years of coaching, I've never had that happen before. The funny thing is we have to go back and do it Monday, but the roles will be totally reversed."
On Monday, South Tama traveled to State Center to play West Marshall in a postponed doubleheader. This time, STC trailed and was at bat with one out in the bottom of the 10th inning.
Senior ace Sam Kuhter came in for the Trojans on Friday. He faced only two batters and closed the door on the Cougars' attempt at a rally.
The first batter, AGWSR's No. 8 hitter, hit a deep fly ball to left field. STC freshman Colson Frakes caught the sacrifice fly, which scored one runner from third base. The final batter struck out swinging.
"We worked on the situation in practice yesterday," Koch said. "Coach (Dustin) Peska told the kids if we get a fly ball hit to the outfield, we want to make sure we get the catch and then hit the cut-off man. As soon as the ball was hit, I heard coach Peska say, 'We worked on that situation yesterday.' We gave up the run, but we got the out. Then Sam went and K'd the last kid. We got the win."
After a brief 10-minute break, the two NICL teams were back on the field beginning the second game of the night. Kuhter was back on the mound after pitching two-thirds of an inning in relief during the opener.
During his six innings of work, Kuhter fanned 11 batters, walked two, gave up seven hits and two earned runs. Though it wasn't his best night, Koch knows his star ace will pitch better during his next performance.
"We told Sam, 'Think of this as if you've pitched an inning, we came in to hit and now you have to go pitch another inning,'" Koch said. "I have to give Sam credit, because he didn't have his good stuff today. He was the first one to admit that he struggled with his control, but he was still effective. Fortunately we scored enough runs to give him some confidence. Sam will bounce back. He always does."
Kuhter was also instrumental in creating offense for the Trojans. With two outs in the second inning, Kuhter earned a walk to get on base. While Kuhter was stealing second, the AGWSR pitcher threw a ball past the catcher, which allowed Kuhter to take third base. As he slid into third, the AGWSR catcher threw the ball past the third baseman. Kuhter stood up and sprinted across home plate, giving STC an early 1-0 lead.
"Sam got us going offensively, too," Koch said. "He gets on base and then goes first to third on a passed ball. They over throw to third and he scores to give us our first run of the game. That's just great hustle."
South Tama added three runs in the third inning after earning two outs. Seniors Noah Bearden and Kaleb Davenport were walked, and Frakes moved Bearden to second with a sacrifice bunt. Sophomore Grant Koch scored Bearden with a single that was ruled an error by the AGWSR first baseman, who dropped the catch and couldn't make the out. Senior Tank Keckler loaded the bases with a walk before sophomore Dalton Doyle was hit by a pitch, scoring Davenport from third. Kuhter followed Doyle with an RBI single to score Koch.
The Trojans scored four more in the fourth inning. Bearden started the inning with a double and then Frakes hit a single. Davenport hit an RBI single to score Bearden and move Frakes over to second base. Koch hit a sacrifice bunt, but AGWSR's throw to third base was wild, so Koch rounded first base. Frakes and Davenport scored on the error, while Koch ended up at third after his bunt.
"We put up a crooked number in the fourth inning," Koch said. "Grant bunts and they throw the ball away. Grant comes all the way to third and we score two on a ball that never got out of the infield. That's why defense is such an important thing in this game."
AGWSR scored one run in the third inning and two more in the fifth. Meanwhile, South Tama added three runs in the sixth inning. STC junior Nate Hala finished the game in relief of Kuhter. After a ground-out, Hala struck out the final two batters.
Last Wednesday, the Trojans traveled to Newton to play an out-of-conference game against the Cardinals. After a big inning in the fifth and two more runs in the seventh inning, STC beat Newton 6-3.
After four scoreless innings, South Tama broke open the game with four runs. Senior Clay Waterbury, Bearden, Frakes and junior Kolton Smith each scored in the fifth inning. Waterbury and Bearden earned walks, while Frakes and Smith hit singles.
Smith and Davenport added two more runs in the final inning, thanks to a hard-hit ball by Doyle. As a team, STC had only five hits in the game. Smith, Davenport, Koch, Keckler and Frakes each had one hit. Doyle led the team with two RBIs.
"Dalton Doyle got a big hit in the seventh," Koch said. "He hit it to the wall and their center fielder dropped, so we score two runs. That put us ahead 6-0, instead of 4-0, going into the bottom of the seventh."
Koch was dominant on the mound through six innings. He gave up three earned runs in the seventh. However, he gave up only five hits and struck out four batters during his complete game victory.
"I probably went with Grant a little longer than I should have," Koch said. "Fortunately, he was able to bear down and get the last three outs for us.
"Grant had really good command on the mound," he said. "He pitched out of a couple jams. Grant didn't have his best stuff either, but we played small ball and we were able to take advantage of some Newton defensive mistakes."