Jackson Bennett helps Beckman batter Monticello

Blazer sophomore drives in six runs during 11-1 victory

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DYERSVILLE — It takes a baseball guy to know a baseball guy.

So, when Dyersville Beckman Coach Tom Jenk Jr. refers to Blazers’ first baseman Jackson Bennett as one then rest assured the description fits.

Bennett demonstrated why he receives the high praise, driving in six runs and helping the Blazers to an 11-1 victory in five innings over Monticello in the Class 2A District 7 final Saturday night at Commercial Club Park’s Jenk Field.

Bennett finished 3-for-3 with two runs and sealed the victory with a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the fifth.

“He deserves it,” Jenk said. “He’s the first one there and one of the last ones to leave. He’s a baseball man and I’m glad to have him aboard.”

Jenk said Bennett is consumed with baseball 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. Baseball has been a natural fit for the 6-foot-2 sophomore.

“It’s everything,” Bennett said. “My whole family played sports. My mom played college softball. It’s just in our blood.

“Just like Coach Jenk. He lives and dies baseball. He is wearing off on all of us, I guess.”

Bennett put Beckman on the board in the first after Joel Vaske ripped a one-out triple. Bennett followed with the run-scoring single to center field. He scored on a Jacob Grover sacrifice fly, giving the Blazers a 2-0 lead that it didn’t surrender.

Monticello answered with a run in the second, but Bennett provided another punch to the Panthers’ gut in the third.

A two-out error allowed Vaske to reach, bringing Bennett to the plate. Bennett nailed a 3-1 offering for a home run, clearing a line of cars parked beyond the left-field fence. The blast was his first home run of the season.

Bennett said he hacked at a pitch that was at eye level.

“I was hoping to swing at a better strike,” Bennett said. “I just let it go and didn’t think about it. I just got lucky, I guess.”

Beckman pulled away in the four-run fourth, getting RBI singles from Chance Radabaugh and Colin Squiers, a bases-loaded walk from Vaske and a sacrifice fly from Bennett.

The Blazers sent 10 batters to the plate in the fourth, sandwiching three straight hits between two walks during one stretch. Jenk said players feed off each others’ successes on any team, but the Blazers have been bunking a trend that saw them drop 17 games in the regular season.

“We just try to energize our kids a little bit more and to realize you can have fun playing this game,” Jenk said. “There is a lot of losing that takes place and we did a lot of that during the year. We got sick and tired of it and so we’re moving into a new direction.”

Sam Stelken and Squiers had two hits apiece for the Blazers.

Bennett said he’s had one or two games like this but this one counts due to it coming in postseason play.

“It felt good to gets some hits,” Bennett said. “It felt better to get a win. Monticello has been playing good. They have some nice pitching. We’ve got good pitching, obviously.

“I was just trying to get hits and help the team out the best I could.”

Beckman starter Connor McDermott threw 4 1/3 innings, allowing just one run on four hits and striking out seven. McDermott kept the Panthers off balance with a steady diet of breaking pitches. He was able to get it over the plate, tallying 55 strikes of his 98 pitches.

“It’s definitely my best pitch,” McDermott said. “I trust it with all my heart. I can throw it for any count.”

The early lead and consistent scoring let McDermott relax on the mound until Riley Legrand came in to get the final two outs.

“It gave me momentum,” McDermott said. “It gave me a boost to go out and give my all.”

Beckman (23-17) claimed its 26th district title and returns to the substate final. The Blazers will face rival and sixth-ranked Cascade (28-9) Tuesday at Farley. The feeling doesn’t get old.

“Never,” Jenk said. “I’m glad to be back in substate. Our goal every year is to get down to Principal Park and play on championship Saturday. We’re trying to move in that direction.”

Monticello ended the season 21-9. Tyler McDonald had a hit and scored for the Panthers. Mason Newhard, Cody Menster and Derek Manternach added hits for Monticello. Newhard reached base all three at-bats, walking twice.

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

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