116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — It’s hard to play from behind.
It’s even harder to play from behind in a huge game. Then it’s even harder to play from behind in a huge game against a very good opponent.
Iowa City High did everything it could to overcome that significant stuff Thursday night in the Class 4A state baseball tournament semifinals at Banks Field. The Little Hawks almost did, but the key word there is “almost.”
West Des Moines Dowling scored twice right away in the top of the first inning and never trailed, holding on at the end for a 6-4 win that sets up yet another all-Central Iowa Metro League championship game. It’s the Maroons (27-14) and Johnston (35-4) for the title Saturday night.
Suburban Des Moines schools have matched up in four of the last six 4A championship games, with this clinching a suburban Des Moines winner for the fifth time in the last six years. The exception was Pleasant Valley last season.
City High (32-9) faced deficits of 4-1 after four innings and 5-2 after 5 1/2, yet closed within 5-4 in the bottom of sixth and had the tying run on base. The tying run was at the plate in the seventh.
In short, the Little Hawks didn’t go away quietly.
“When you get down against a team like that, it’s tough to come back, but we stayed in it,” said City High’s Alex Knudtson. “We battled through the whole game. Not everything went our way with it. I don’t know. We could have gotten a few more runs in, but we didn’t hit tonight like we used to.”
“You just hope that at the end of the day that was what you get,” said City High Coach Brian Mitchell. “I would say that wasn’t always the case, especially those seniors would at times let their emotions get the best of them. They might have a little bit again tonight, too. But I would just say for us to fight ...”
Mitchell didn’t have to finish that thought. And just think had a couple of seemingly 50-50 calls on the bases in the bottom of the sixth gone City High’s way how this game would have turned out.
An apparent run-scoring wild pitch turned into an out instead, when Dowling catcher Trever Baumler got a fortunate hard kick off the back stop that allowed him to retrieve the errant pitch and throw it to the plate in time for pitcher Blake Larson to tag City High’s Alex Knudtson as he tried to score from third.
A Talon Young RBI single ensued to make it a 5-4 game. His pinch runner, however, was thrown out trying to steal second base, though that pinch runner (Carsen Newton) was adamant in his actions that the Dowling middle infielder who tagged him pushed him off second base.
Dowling got an insurance run in the top of the seventh for the final score. A two-out hit by pitch brought leading hitter Gable Mitchell to bat as the tying run, but he took a nasty slider for a called third strike to end it.
Dowling’s Larson pitched the final two innings, saving the win for Maroons starter Jake English. Larson, a sophomore, hasn’t pitched much this season because of a sore arm, but already has committed to TCU and was blowing 93 to 95-mph gas from the left side here.
“We knew Larson might come in,” Coach Mitchell said. “But that first kid did a really nice job of keeping us off balance. We’ve been hitting so well the last month, and it didn’t work out. But I tell you what, we gave ourselves a chance. That was really fun at the end.”
Twelve seniors were on this team and a few were around as sophomores on City High’s 2020 state tournament qualifier. They’ll be missed, but the culture of this program seems to have been set.
The yearly goal is to get to the state tournament and see what happens.
“Those seniors, they changed the trajectory for us, for sure,” Coach Mitchell said.
“It started for us after football season,” said City High senior Carter Seaton. “We had seven, eight guys come in and hit every single day, worked out every single day. Then once we got to the season, we had a 5 o’clock practice, we showed up at the field ready to go.”
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