STC’s run cut short
Trojans tripped up by Benton in extras
VAN HORNE — There were too many twists and turns to count in Wednesday night’s Class 3A Substate 3 baseball final between South Tama County and Benton Community.
For so long it looked as though South Tama was on its way to completing a shocking run to state for just the second time in school history — but it all fell apart in the final three innings. Three Benton runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and a run in the bottom of the ninth ended the Trojans’ dreams, the 6-5 final score leaving the team in shock. South Tama ended the season with a 7-17 record.
In a lot of ways, the early proceedings of Wednesday’s game were very similar to STC’s upset of Charles City on Monday: a scrappy, defense-and-pitching first battle with no runs to be found in the first three innings. Matt Wiese was on the mound for the Trojans rather than Mickey Wanatee, who reached his weekly pitch count against Charles City. The Bobcats of Benton (13-11) came closest to scoring in the first third of the game, plating a run on a wild pitch in the bottom of the first only to get called out after the runner did not step on home plate. It was a big break for the Trojans and a tough blow for Benton early on, as the Bobcats often looked more likely to score.
STC head coach Seth Koch said the Trojans continued to build confidence but made small errors — three of them — when it mattered.
“We outhit them tonight [11-10],” Koch said. “It’s one of those things that I’ve tried to stress to the kids over and over again, 80 percent of this game is pitching and defense. I thought we pitched well enough tonight. Unfortunately, I don’t think we played defense well enough to win.”
That changed in the fifth inning. After early hits to get runners on base, Wiese made his at-bat count and drove in Jacob Collison to score the game’s first run. Next up was Wanatee, who had launched a solo home run in the district final. He one-upped himself with a three-run home run to give the Trojans a 4-0 lead.
Koch said the Trojans started to dream of state at this point, up 4-1 through five innings and full of confidence.
Logan Arp worked a walk to drive in another run in the sixth and despite a Benton run, the Trojans took a 5-2 cushion into the bottom of the seventh inning. The night was done at that point for Wiese, who gave up two runs in six innings on six hits and four strikeouts.
Collison, pitching in relief, walked the first batter before a single and an error plated a run for the Bobcats. After getting back-to-back flyouts with two runners in scoring position, the Trojans had to get one more out to reach state. Both Bobcat baserunners raced around to score on a misplayed grounder to short, sending the game to extra innings, much to the delight of the home crowd.
Neither team could break through in the eighth inning, but South Tama found itself with a chance in the top of the ninth. Lane Lekin hit a ball into the right-field corner and was rounding second base when he was waved to third by Koch. As he approached third he was met by Benton third baseman Aiden Harris, ball in glove, and Lekin was tagged out as the window of opportunity passed.
A pair of STC errors and back-to-back singles for Benton brought home the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth.
Koch said he was upset for his players but proud of them for making a run after ending the regular season 5-16.
“This one’s gonna hurt for a little bit,” Koch said. “I feel for the kids because they worked hard. The last week, they’ve put it together. Give Benton all the credit in the world.”
Benton’s players stormed the diamond in celebration, continuing to cheer and celebrate long after the final run was scored. South Tama gathered together in the outfield, trying to figure out how what should have been a celebratory moment had gone so wrong.
Benton Community 6, South Tama County 5, 9 innings
At Van Horne
STC 000 041 000 — 5 11 4
BEN 000 011 301 — 6 10 3
Matt Wiese, Jacob Collison (7) and Jordan Bly; Brady Sadler, Drew Lange (8) and Ian Rupp. W-Lange. L-Collison. 2B-STC: Lane Lekin; BEN: Cade Timmerman, Landen Schmuecker. 3B-BEN: Rupp. HR-STC: Mickey Wanatee. LOB-STC 8, BEN 11.