WILLIAMSBURG - South Tama County's baseball team was playing two opponents Clear Creek-Amana and itself during Friday's Class 3A District 10 game.
The Clippers didn't need the long ball, speedy base runners or more hits than their opponent to win the postseason opener. South Tama helped them with five defensive errors, which led to numerous hits and extra outs for the Clippers.
In the end, those errors by South Tama led to its demise. STC's season ended in the district semifinal round. Clear Creek-Amana (14-23) defeated South Tama (20-12) 7-2. The Clippers advanced and played Williamsburg, who beat Center Point-Urbana 12-2, on Monday night.
"I think we kicked it around five times and offensively, we left too many on base," STC head coach Seth Koch said. "We didn't execute the small ball the way we should have and you can't do that in the tournament. You're going to come up short every time."
Clear Creek-Amana did all of its damage during the first and fifth innings. Clear Creek-Amana capitalized on three errors in the first inning to grab a 3-0 lead, before South Tama clawed back to within one run. Then the Clippers made the most of two more STC miscues to swing momentum back on their side with a four-run fifth inning.
"Then give Clear Creek credit, because they came out, put the ball in play and put some pressure on us defensively," Koch said. "We kick the ball around again and next thing you know, they have another crooked number on the scoreboard. If you take those two innings away, it's a heck of a baseball game. Unfortunately, you have to play all seven. We just came up short defensively in those two innings."
The Clippers took advantage of three early STC errors during their first at-bat. Jacob Klingeman led off the game by reaching first on an error and then moving to second on a passed ball. Nile Rourke bunted in the No. 2 spot, but a throwing error to first base plated Klingeman as Rourke advanced to second. An A.J. Liddell single moved Rourke to third before a Tanner Brady sac fly brought him in for the second run of the inning.
Stephen Jensen drilled a liner to short stop that was snagged out of the sky for the second out. However, the ensuing throw to first, attempting to double up courtesy runner Ben Ginerich, sailed wide and allowed him to advance to second. The next batter hit an RBI single, giving the Clippers a 3-0 lead, before the he was caught off of second base for the third out.
"We didn't come as focused as we thought we were going to be," STC senior center fielder Kaleb Davenport said. "They put the ball in play, which is what you have to do and we threw it around. We made mistakes and they capitalized on it."
Koch agreed, saying his team put too much pressure on itself.
"That hurt," Koch said. "I think we came out tight. We knew this was going to be a tough ball game. Stepping into 3A when most of your opponents are 1A and 2A most of the year, you need to step up. I think we did, but we had some kids that were playing in their first district anything in any sport. So we had some guys who were just tight, but I think that's normal."
South Tama started its comeback in the bottom of the second inning. Sophomore Dalton Doyle and senior Noah Bearden each reached first on errors, sandwiched by a single from sophomore Ian Slagle, who batted as the designated hitter in placement of senior Tank Keckler, who missed the game for personal matters. Following Bearden's at-bat, freshman Colson Frakes hit an RBI single to right field, scoring Doyle. After an STC strike out, senior Sam Kuhter hit what looked to be a single, but a diving stop from the Clippers' Jake Neubauer at short stop ended the inning with the bases loaded.
The Trojans struck again in the third inning to pull within one run. Junior Kolton Smith led off with a walk before stealing second base. Sophomore Grant Koch hit an RBI single through the infield driving in Smith, closing the lead to 3-2. Doyle followed with another single and junior Nate Hala drew a one-out walk, but the Clippers retired the next two batters, leaving the bases stranded once again.
"We left the bases loaded twice," coach Koch said. "We can't do that. We've got to come out and score a couple runs. We don't do that."
In the fifth inning, the Clippers' Rourke reached on an error to open the frame before stealing second and moving to third on a Liddell's single. Rourke scored on a double steal when the Trojans initially made the throw to second, but couldn't get the ball back home in time.
Jensen was hit by a pitch after a strike out, before the runners moved up a base on a wild pitch. An errant throw from second to first on another infield hit allowed both runs to score, pushing the Clippers' lead to 6-2. Nick Kasenberg later hit an RBI single, before the Trojans finally got out of the frame with the eighth batter of the inning. The Clippers led 7-2 after the top of the inning.
The Trojans reached base only four times during the final four innings. Hala hit a double, Smith hit a single and seniors Kaleb Davenport and Bearden reached on walks. They left 11 runners stranded on base during the game.
"You have to give their kids credit," coach Koch said. "(Clear Creek-Amana) didn't throw the ball down the middle of the plate. They threw it on the outside half or inside half, while changing their speeds up. They did that very well tonight and it was very effective on the hill."
Senior Sam Kuhter (6-2) went five innings on the mound, but was saddled with the loss allowing seven runs (one earned) on six hits, one walk and a hit batsman in his final outing as a Trojan. Doyle pitched the final two innings, allowing zero hits and striking out one batter.
"Sam did the job," coach Koch said. "He went out for five innings and if it would have been 70 degrees, Sam would have been a lot tougher than he was. I think his pitch count got up to 92 and that's almost like 125 in the heat. He didn't have anything left, so Dalton came in and was very effective for two innings. We've ridden Sam's right arm a long time this season. We thought Sam gave us the best chance to win and I think he did his job on the mound."
Davenport was one of the seniors, who played his last game in any STC uniform. Emotions came out after the contest.
"I've been playing with these guys since second or third grade," Davenport said. "We've been on different teams. It's crazy, because I've known these guys so long. To think that my high school career is finally over is unreal. I love every one of them and I hope the best for all of them."