DYERSVILLE — Dyersville Beckman Coach Fred Martin and Monticello Coach Josh Soper have seen their share of baseball games.
Both agreed their latest contest had some peculiar happenings, like more runs being scored on wild pitches and bases-loaded hit batsmen than hits.
All of that gave way to the norm. The sixth-ranked Blazers won their 26th district title, scoring three runs in the bottom of the fifth and beating Monticello, 5-2, in the Class 2A District 7 final Saturday night at Commercial Club Park.
“Overall, we played well,” Martin said. “I was very proud of our pitching, and our defense played really well.”
The decisive inning saw two batters — pinch-hitter Sam Oberbroeckling and C.J. McDermott — drive in insurance runs, getting hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. It countered the wild pitch and bases loaded hit batsman that led to the Panthers' two runs in the third.
“It’s kind of a strange game,” Martin said. “The three runs we got in the fifth inning, hit by pitches, different things, just strange situations.”
The first run and the eventual game-winning run in that frame came more traditionally. Riley Legrand dropped a perfect bunt down the third base line for a hit and reached second when the late throw went into right field.
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Joel Vaske knew Legrand’s plan and was set to bunt as well, but that changed when Legrand advanced. Vaske swung away and smacked an RBI triple over the center fielder’s head.
“They wanted to make sure he stayed there at second,” Vaske said. “Made them pay. Left it over the plate. It was big.”
McDermott provided a quality start, throwing six innings. Jackson Bennett retired Monticello in order in the seventh for the save.
“All my pitches were working really well,” McDermott said. “My catcher, Joel, and I were really clicking tonight. We were working well. Even when they did put the ball in play, my defense was always there to back me up and get the outs.”
McDermott allowed five hits and struck out 10. Eight of those came in the in the first three innings. The strikeouts were crucial, stranding five runners on base including two each in the second and third.
In the third, McDermott rebounded from a tough stretch. He gave up a leadoff single to Gavin Cooper and then hit three straight batters, allowing Cooper to score and Kyle Sperfslage to score on a wild pitch, tying it 2-2.
McDermott buckled down and fanned the next three batters. He retired Monticello in order the next two innings. Oddly, he didn’t have a walk but hit four batters.
“It’s really just a mental game after that,” McDermott said. “Once they get on, you just have to compose yourself, and even if they do put the ball in play, just let your defense make plays.
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“As a pitcher you never want to do that. You just have to push through and keep throwing strikes.”
McDermott helped himself early, hitting an RBI single in the second inning to score Brock Marbach. Sam Stelken led off the inning with a single and scored on Marbach’s double to left.
Stelken and Legrand led Beckman with two hits apiece. McDermott got his eighth win, while Bennett notched his third save.
Beckman (28-11) advances to a substate final against Cascade at Manchester Tuesday, looking for its fifth state berth in the last sixth years. Martin was happy with the Blazers performance and smiled at the thought of another substate appearance.
“It’s a good feeling because I know the teams we’re playing are quality teams,” said Martin, highlighting district finalists Beckman, Monticello, No. 6 Cascade and Northeast. “There are four quality teams, right there, battling and trying to make it. We’ll be ready.”
Cooper and Andrew Mescher each had two hits for Monticello.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, their season comes to a close at Dyersville for the second straight year. The loss doesn’t overshadow a strong season that ended with a 22-7 record and the program’s first conference title in 51 years.
“We’re extremely proud of our team,” Soper said. “We’re extremely proud of the effort they have given all season, including tonight.”
Monticello only has three seniors on the roster. The bar is already set high for next season.
“We’re going to have high expectations for next year with as much talent as we have coming back,” Soper said. “The key is they need to learn from tonight and use that to help them get better and I know they will.”
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