Mike Jones with 2-hit shutout of Alburnett as Ed-Co advances to state baseball for 1st time

Vikings scored twice in 1st inning and hold on for 2-0 win

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MANCHESTER — They know Principal Park. It won’t be unfamiliar to them.

“We take the kids down to the state tournament every year to watch,” Coach Aaron Hamann said. “But we told them it’d be nice to actually play a game there.”

Which they will do. Mike Jones threw a two-hitter, and Carter Aulwes had a two-run single in the top of the first inning, as the Ed-Co Vikings surprised fifth-ranked Alburnett, 2-0, Tuesday night in a Class 1A substate baseball final.

Perhaps “surprised” is too strong a term, considering Ed-Co beat eighth-ranked Jesup in this past Saturday night’s district final. These guys are pretty good, especially with lefty Jones on the mound, and they are on a roll.

The school’s first state tournament appearance will be either Friday night or Saturday night at Des Moines. That will be determined Wednesday after the rest of 1A’s substate finals are played.

All the Vikings know is they’ll be there — playing.

“It was pretty much pure adrenaline there in the seventh inning,” said Jones, who walked four and struck out 10. “I don’t know, I threw more strikes that last inning than in any of the others. It just felt really good that last inning.”

“Mike was on,” Aulwes said. “It was a tough (strike) zone for him, but he did good. A small zone like that this late in the season, that really proves a pitcher.”

Alburnett (31-8) won a regular-season encounter between these teams June 28, 11-1, in five innings. But that’s the last time Ed-Co (21-12) has lost, and Jones did not pitch.

“Coming in, we knew he would throw,” said Alburnett Coach Tony Stenberg. “We kind of had an idea what he would throw. We hadn’t faced him, obviously, but we saw him throw this year. But give him credit and their defense credit. They did a nice job.”

Seth Hoeger led off the Ed-Co first with a sharp single to center field on the very first pitch from tough-luck losing pitcher Ian Boline (6-3). An error and a fielder’s choice grounder put runners on the corners with one away, but Boline caught a popup back to him for the second out.

Dawson Harbaugh stole second base to put a pair into scoring position, and Aulwes picked on the first pitch he saw for a single to left that ended up ending the scoring. Ed-Co, which didn’t have a hit the rest of the game, scored twice in the top of the first in its district final win over Jesup and four times in the top of the first in its district semifinal win over Lansing Kee.

“It has been really important for our offense in the postseason to score right away in the first inning,” Aulwes said. “I think every postseason game we have scored right away. We’ve gotten out on top. That sets the tone for the whole game.”

This game began at 8:30 p.m., an hour and a half later than scheduled because of rain that fell Tuesday afternoon. Host West Delaware did a terrific job getting the field ready, as it was in fine shape at game time and did not play much of a factor in this one.

Jones did, however. He threw a complete game to beat Jesup and one-upped himself here.

Though he had just one 1-2-3 inning, Jones (7-2) was able to wiggle his way around trouble, constantly throwing his fastball on or just off the outside corner and adding a curveball or two or three when needed.

Alburnett had just two singles: one from Jordan Stewart and the other by Boline. Stewart’s hit came with two away in the sixth and was followed by a walk on four pitches to Kyle Kristiansen.

Jones came back to strike out Christian Cameron on three pitches to end that threat. He struck out the first two Pirates in the bottom of the seventh and got a routine flyball to right to end it.

“It was great to get those runs in the first inning,” he said. “I figured I might give up one or two (runs), but I figured we’d score more than we did. I guess two was all we needed.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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