116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CARROLL — Alburnett seniors have made a lasting impression on the baseball program.
During their five years, the Pirates won 137 games, including three in two state tournament appearances and one runner-up finish.
Unfortunately, their run ended a little shorter than hoped. Second-seeded Council Bluffs St. Albert rapped 10 hits, including four in the second and fourth, en route to a 10-0 victory in five innings over No. 6-seed Alburnett in a Class 1A state semifinal Wednesday at Merchants Park.
“We knew it was going to take a big effort,” Alburnett Coach Ryan Stensland said. “I told the guys you start mixing in a couple hits, a couple errors, a couple walks and you have the perfect ingredients for a perfect thunderstorm. Man, there was some thunder with the bats. They played a hell of a game.”
The ending was tough. The team remained huddled for minutes along the left-field line as Stensland talked to the team. When it broke, players began to hug one another. It was the end of the road for many accomplished seniors, including all-staters Hunter Caves, Reed Stallman, Kale Rose and Shane Neighbor and Caden Evans.
“It’s always special at state,” Caves said. “It sucks that we got 10-runned, but I wouldn’t want to do it with anybody else than the guys we have.
“I love those guys and the coaches, too.”
Evans compared the team to more of a family. They have a strong bond, including some good-natured ribbing and lots of support.
“We’re all brothers,” Evans said. “We mess with each other and joke with each other, but at the end of the day we’re teammates.”
Seniors began their career when Stensland took over the program. He tried to contain his emotion, discussing the group on and off the field.
“They are amazing athletes,” Stensland said. “More important, they are amazing human beings. I appreciate them believing in us and I appreciate Alburnett giving us a chance.”
St. Albert (34-8) broke open a scoreless game with three hits in the second. The first three batters reached via singles from leadoff batter Jaxson Lehnen and Brett Klusman and a walk from Carter White sandwiched between them. Colton Brennnan, who finished 3-for-3 with two RBIs, followed with an RBI single and Isaac Sherrill added a sacrifice fly.
In the fourth, Jeff Miller had a two-run single, Brennan had another run-scoring base hit and Sherrill produced another sacrifice fly to make it 8-0.
Miller also ended the game with a two-run single to right in the fifth.
“They pounded the ball,” Caves said. “Credit to them, they hit the crap out of the ball. Nothing you can do about it.”
Alburnett received singles from Caves, Neighbor and Kale Rose. Miller struck out six and only allowed three runners to reach scoring position.
“We had some balls that should have been in play, doubles or base hits, but couldn’t connect,” Caves said. “It happens. It’s just one of those days.”
Alburnett (29-10) has reached the state tournament three times. The current Pirates advanced to the semifinals twice. The sting was too fresh to realize their contribution.
“We talked about how today is not indicative of how their careers have been,” Stensland said. “It stinks right now. They’re going back at some point, maybe not today or tomorrow or the next day, and they’re going to smile. They are going to say this has been a heck of a ride.”