MARION - As the prep volleyball season nears the midway point, Cedar Rapids Xavier identified a vital ingredient if the Saints are to retain their No. 1 ranking in Class 4A.
Now is the time to turn up the defense.
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DES MOINES — Dyersville Beckman had its chances and knocked on the door to home.
Every time the Blazers did, Pleasantville slammed the door shut.
The seventh-seeded Trojans converted two critical defensive plays into a 3-1 victory over No. 2 Beckman in the Class 2A state quarterfinals Monday night at Principal Park.
“It’s tough to swallow because we had our opportunities to get those couple runs and tie it up,” Beckman junior Riley LeGrand said. “We couldn’t just quite get it done.”
The Blazers (24-18) placed the tying run in scoring position in each of the final three innings, but couldn’t manage to cut into the deficit. In consecutive innings, the Trojans cut down a runner at home plate for the final out of the inning.
The first came in the fifth. Chance Radabaugh was hit by a pitch and Colin Squires walked with one out. Both advanced on a sacrifice. Pleasantville starter Zeb Adreon bounced a pitch that didn’t get very far from catcher Cael Lester, who tracked it down and threw to Adreon in time to tag out pinch runner Noah Sabers, attempting to score from third.
“One thing that we worked on a lot during the week that we didn’t execute was the bunt,” Beckman Coach Tom Jenk said. “The bunt was very important today and that was probably the only real disappointment that I had.
“Outside of that, I thought the kids came out and played hard. They gave it their best effort. It’s tough for them to lose down here because they know what the tradition is about.”
Beckman’s Joel Vaske and Jackson Bennett opened the sixth with a hit-by-pitch and a single. A sacrifice attempt turned into a pop-up, preventing the runners to advance and keeping them from scoring on Jacob Grover’s single that loaded the bases.
The Trojans (29-9) turned out another gem when center fielder Brock Busick hauled in a shallow fly ball and threw out Vaske at home for an inning-ending double play.
“I’m all for being an aggressive base runner, especially in high school, to try to make them make the extra throw,” Jenk said. “Tonight, they made the play.”
Beckman senior Devon Driscoll said Busick’s throw stalled their momentum.
“They made great plays down the stretch,” Driscoll said. “They executed a little bit better.”
Adreon powered Pleasantville from the mound and at the plate. He improved to 6-1, striking out 10 and allowing three hits. He struggled in the seventh, walking the leadoff batter and plunking the next to bring the winning run to the plate. Nate Sowers came in and retired the next three hitters.
“I threw a lot of strikes,” Adreon said. “The defense really came in clutch when I needed it, throwing a guy out at home and making plays behind me.”
Jenk praised Adreon’s effort.
“We saw a lot of good left-handers this year,” Jenk said. “This guy ranks right up there with the best of them.”
Adreon also had three of the Trojans’ six hits, reaching base four total times. He led off the game with a double and then sparked a two-run third with a triple off the top of the right-field wall. He scored on a wild pitch. Busick, who singled, scored on an RBI single by Sowers for a 2-0 lead.
“That is always big to start off the game with a couple of hits,” Adreon said. “It makes them play back on their heels, knowing we’re here to play and ready to win.”
A costly two-out error in the fifth allowed another run for the Trojans.
Beckman got on the board when senior Devon Driscoll led off the bottom of the third with a base hit. He scored on an error that allowed LeGrand to score. The Blazers needed one more clutch play.
“It would have been nice to come through in a spot where we had guys on second and third,” Driscoll said. “It just didn’t happen.
“We put ourselves there. We just didn’t come through this time.”
Conner McDermott and LeGrand combined to allowed just one earned run. LeGrand tossed three scoreless innings of release. McDermott kept things close, stranding the bases loaded in the fourth to keep it 2-1. Jenk visited the mound and they elected to intentionally walk Adreon. McDermott responded with two consecutive strikeouts to end the threat.
“I don’t think I’ve ever walked an individual in that situation.” Jenk said. “It worked out, but it was a tough call for us to make.”
Beckman made its 17th state tournament appearance, which is tied for third all-time in Iowa. This marks just the third time the Blazers lost in the opening round at state. This provides a building block for next season, returning all but five players next year.
“We have quite a few people coming back,” LeGrand said. “You can look back on this year and see what we did and build on that for next year. Just get better and improve on what we didn’t quite have this year. Just build that so we can get back down here again next year.”
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