Ehrhardt returns from knee surgery to provide spark for War Eagles

Clayton Ridge/Central drops North Cedar in Class 2A district opener

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DYERSVILLE — Derek Ehrhardt was told he would miss this baseball season.

The news was unacceptable, even though he was in the midst of rehabilitation from anterior cruciate ligament surgery. He was determined to take the field for Clayton Ridge/Central for his junior campaign.

Ehrhardt worked his way back and has been a key component in the War Eagles success. He had two hits, reaching safely in all three at-bats, drove in two runs and scored twice, helping the War Eagles to an 11-1 victory in five innings over North Cedar in an Iowa High School Athletic Association Class 2A District 7 first-round game Saturday night at Commercial Club Park’s Jenk Field.

Ehrhardt is a little more than five months removed from the procedure on his left knee. He may not be completely healthy, but it doesn’t affect his play. Ehrhardt is glad to be back.

“I can’t even tell with the adrenaline when I’m playing,” said Ehrhardt, who also stole his second base of the season and entered the game hitting .463. “I’m flying around and having fun. There are times I get sore, but it’s nothing I can’t play through.”

The Elkader Central junior suffered the ACL tear during basketball season in January and went under the knife Feb. 1. Initially, he was expected to return for his senior football season. The timetable changed two months later when “no” changed to “maybe” for baseball. Ehrhardt continued to work back, receiving medical clearance May 8 and took the diamond for practice the next day.

“I was practicing baseball early,” Ehrhardt admitted. “I wasn’t going full-bore, but I was not going to watch. I was just waiting to get cleared.”

War Eagles Coach Zach Mueller said Ehrhardt dedicated a lot of time in the weight room and physical therapy. Ehrhardt attended rehab twice a week, lifted upper body and performed various leg exercises.

“He’s the kind of guy that isn’t going to take no for an answer,” Mueller said. “When he first had his ACL repaired, they said six to nine months, but he said that’s not fast enough and he wanted to play baseball. By the first week of June, which was four months, he was back.”

The War Eagles (20-12) lost its first three games of the season before Ehrhardt joined the lineup. He leads the team with 40 hits, 31 runs, 10 doubles and is tied with Thomas Meyer with 25 RBIs.

“He’s a tremendous spark for us,” Mueller said. “He’s been a key for us turning things around. We got off to a rough start at the beginning of the year and getting him back was a big boost for us.”

Ehrhardt’s impact was made early in the game. He ripped a double over the left fielder’s head to drive in Sumner Smith for the first run. Thomas Meyer drove in Ehrhardt on the next at-bat, giving CRC a 2-0 lead and one it did not surrender.

“He gave me a pitch right down the heart (of the plate),” Ehrhardt said. “I just do what I do and hit the ball hard.”

Ehrhardt added an RBI single in the second inning and scored after reaching on an error in the four-run fourth.

Meyer and Nick Sylvester also had two RBIs apiece. Meyer added a sacrifice fly to bring in Smith in the second and Sylvester had a two-run single in the fourth.

Each War Eagle starter scored and six had at least one hit, going 7-for-16 with runners in scoring position. Mueller said the team discussed the need for a balanced attack to win in the first round for the fourth straight season.

“We wanted to be aggressive Nos. 1 through 9 and put the ball in play,” Mueller said. “Run the bases aggressively and put pressure on them.

“We did a good job.”

CRC starter Kole Brandel handled North Cedar (6-22) for his seventh win. He allowed an earned run and scattered just five hits. He had good command, needing only 62 pitches including 43 strikes.

North Cedar’s Jacob Holst had an RBI single in the third, driving in Jacob Jensen. Byron Boleyn, Andrew Rief, Cody Fields and Jensen also had hits for the Knights.

The War Eagles will face Monticello in the second round Tuesday here in Dyersville, starting at 5 p.m. The Panthers (20-8) beat CRC, 13-2, in six innings on Wednesday.

“We’re going to see some tougher pitching,” Mueller said. “We have to stay aggressive. When we get fastballs early in the count, we have to get on them. We have to put the ball in play and then when we get on base we have to run smart but aggressive.”

ANAMOSA ADVANCES

Victories were few and far between for Anamosa in the regular season. The postseason, however, began with success.

The Blue Raiders rallied for eight runs in the top of the fourth and coasted to a 10-6 win over Maquoketa Valley in a Class 2A District 7 game Saturday night at Commercial Club Park’s Jenk Field in Dyersville.

Anamosa (8-28) trailed after Maquoketa Valley scored two in the first. The Blue Raiders sent 14 batters to the plate in the fourth, tallying six of their 12 hits. Michael Martensen had RBI singles in both at-bats during the inning. His first scored Tucker Scofield to put Anamosa on the board and the last brought in Trevor Wehling to cap the frame. Kyle Schepanski had a two-run single past a drawn-in infield for a 4-2 lead. Jay McClean followed with a triple over the right fielder’s head, making it 6-2.

Maquoketa Valley (16-17) received an RBI triple from Jeremy Fischer, who scored on a wild pitch, during a two-run rally in the bottom of the seventh. The Wildcats finished with eight hits.

Anamosa advances to the second round to face Dyersville Beckman (21-17) at Commercial Club Park on Tuesday, beginning at 7 p.m.

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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