DES MOINES — It’s one thing for an eight seed to beat a one at the state baseball tournament. That happens sometimes.
But when an eight beats the living bejeezus out of a one, that raises eyebrows. Consider everyone’s eyebrows raised here.
Solon scored twice in the top of the first inning and just kept scoring in a 12-2 destruction of Dubuque Wahlert in a Class 3A state baseball tournament quarterfinal Tuesday afternoon at Principal Park. The game was stopped after six innings via mercy rule.
“Solon was able to do things to us that no other team was able to do all year, from the top 4A teams to Mason City Newman, which is down here and a top team in 1A,” said Wahlert Coach Kory Tuescher. “They beat us, they pounded us in every facet of the game. This was the first time in 44 games. Unfortunately that happens in the game of baseball, and it happened on the biggest stage. Tip your hat to Solon. They did everything well today.”
This was no average top seed in Wahlert. The Golden Eagles (29-15) played a predominantly 4A schedule in the Mississippi Valley Conference, owning wins over 4A state tournament qualifiers Cedar Rapids Prairie, Iowa City West and Davenport West.
Solon was the definition of mediocre in a regular season that ended with an 18-20 record. Yeah, the Spartans won three postseason games to get here, but this had to be a blowout, right?
Right, but not in the way anyone thought.
“We knew we had to play the best game, and we went out and played our game,” said Solon’s Dillon Drake. “That’s just the way baseball goes. We played a great team out there. We just gathered a lot of hits.”
In this case, “a lot” was 14. Sophomores Tyler Linderbaum and Kendrick Harris had three apiece, Drake, Patrick Maston and Zach Wegmann (another sophomore) two each.
Drake helped his own cause on the mound with a two-run single in the first. Wahlert shaved its disadvantage to 4-2 after four, but Solon put it away with four runs each in the fifth and sixth.
The Spartans (22-20) play Harlan (27-5) in Friday afternoon’s semifinals.
“I’m surprised, and I’m not surprised,” Solon Coach Keith McSweeney said. “I’m surprised in the sense that we knew Wahlert was a quality team. Well coached, a great tradition ... But I’m not surprised in the sense that our guys are playing with sky high confidence right now. We came into this park after knocking off two Division I pitchers, maybe two of the best, at least in the conversation in 3A. So we certainly weren’t concerned with our at-bats. We knew we were going to swing it. The concern when you get here with some young guys, and we’ve got six sophomores and a freshman, is if we would be able to pick it. We did, we made some plays.”
Previous Solon victims in the postseason included Mount Vernon’s Luke Eldred (Dallas Baptist) and Fairfield’s Cameron Baumann (Iowa).
“The biggest focus was getting the sticks going against their pitcher and making plays on defense for our pitcher, who pitched a great game,” Linderbaum said. “I think we did that tonight. Just a big confidence booster to start out the game the way we did. Just kind of set a tone for the rest of the game. That put a lot of confidence in our players.”
Starter Austin Savary (9-3) took the loss for Wahlert. Drake (4-6) walked four in six innings but gave up just two hits and two unearned runs.
“We play in a very tough conference, and it’s unforgiving, the Wamac East, especially,” McSweeney said. “There is just something about these guys. Something changed in that last regular-season game when we beat Washington. There was more energy, a lot of trust in one another. Baseball’s a funny sport, not like football or maybe even basketball when you can impose your will on people. It’s about who’s hot and who is playing great defense. We are right now, and we’re going to ride this as long as we can.”
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