116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CARROLL — The grit and toughness was there for Lansing Kee.
Unfortunately, they didn’t produce the same result as the previous two state tournament games.
The fourth-seeded Hawks battled back from a six-run deficit to challenge No. 2-seed Council Bluffs St. Albert, but fell short in a 7-5 loss in the Class 1A state baseball championship game Thursday at Merchants Park.
“Our guys kept fighting,” Kee Coach Jim Mauss said. “We scored four in the sixth inning to make it a game.
“We had two guys on. We were right there and that’s just the heart of our team. It’s not always pretty but they just never quit and I can’t be more proud of that team.”
Kee earned its state-best 17th summer state championship appearance. It is the eighth runner-up finish in school history. The Hawks aren’t satisfied and already have sights set on next season.
“We have a chip on our shoulder, now,” Tyson Cota said. “You can expect us back next year, fighting for a championship.”
St. Albert took control early with two runs in each of the first three innings and another in the fourth.
Cy Patterson smacked a two-run double in the first, an error and Jeff Miller’s RBI single resulted in two in the second and Dan McGrath blooped a two-run single in the third for the Falcons.
Jonah Reinke scored on an error in the second for Kee’s only run through five. The Hawks stranded eight runners through four and 10 total.
“Offensively, they’re really good and they’re clicking,” Mauss said. “They haven’t given up a lot of runs either.
“We put some things together but they’re clicking. They have some nice pieces and they do a nice job with their program.”
St. Albert Coach Duncan Patterson watched the Hawks overcome a slim deficit in the quarterfinals and come back to down top-seeded Remsen-St. Mary’s in extra innings in the semifinals. He wasn’t taking the lead for granted.
“I expected them to make it a game,” Patterson said. “They’re scrappy. That is a heck of a team. It’s never over until you get that last out and they proved that all week.”
Kee demonstrated its fight with a four-run sixth. The Hawks nearly batted through its order.
Cam Lind started things with a single and Brayden Mathis was hit by a pitch the following at-bat. Dalton Dibert and Landon Reams reached on fielder’s choices that scored Lind and Mathis. Dibert and Reams both scored on wild pitches to pull within 7-5.
The threat ended with the third out on the base paths and go-ahead run at the plate.
“We’re not going to give up or hang our heads,” Cota said. “If we’re down four runs or 20 runs, we’re going to fight back. We’re in the state championship game. You have to have fun and try our best.”
Cota pitched a complete game for Kee. He remained strong throughout, leaving the bases loaded in the fifth and holding a runner at third in the sixth to keep the Hawks within striking distance.
In the seventh, Reinke reached on an error with one out, but Cy Patterson produced a strikeout and fly out to end it.
The Hawks were left to take solace in their first runner-up showing since 2011.
“It’s a good feeling,” Cota said. “Combined between our two towns we have 1,500 people. We had a lot of people show up, making the 4 1/2-5 hour drive here to see us. It shows us our small towns are behind us completely. It’s terrific to feel that support from them and it feels good to bring the program back where it belongs.”
St. Albert (35-9) captured its fourth state title and first since winning the 2A crown in 1999, improving its state finals record to 4-0. The Falcons were unbeaten against 1A competition this season, closing with 13 straight victories.
“It’s surreal,” Brennan said. “We’re really excited (and) so happy. At the beginning of the year, we knew we could compete and then coming all the way here winning the state championship is awesome.”
The Falcons battered opposing pitchers this week. They reached double-digit hits in all three games, totaling 37 hits in 17 innings at the plate. St. Albert had 13 against Kee, 10 in a semifinal victory over Alburnett and opened with 14 versus Lisbon.
“We attack the strike zone,” Patterson said. “We’re going to attack pitches. It doesn’t matter if it’s a fastball or offspeed. We’re up there swinging. As these guys continued through the season, they got better at it.”
Mauss reflected on the effort that has led to the rejuvination of the Hawks program. Kee had a large vocal crowd, cheering a 17-man roster with just one senior and eight juniors.
“You think of all the people that have a piece in this and it’s hard to thank everybody and let them know how you appreciate it,” Mauss said. “It’s really special. It does give you goosebumps. I think that’s what is amazing about our communities. We know each other, there for each other and it’s pretty cool.”