116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — They’re unofficial overall Wamac Conference champs. But most importantly, the Independence Mustangs are Class 3A state baseball semifinalists.
A pop fly lost in the sun started a go-ahead, two-run mini-rally as Indee edged West Delaware, 8-7, Monday afternoon in a wild quarterfinal with its fair share of emotional swings.
These teams won their respective divisions in the Wamac and split an early season doubleheader. They were the four and five seeds in this tournament and ranked seventh (West Delaware) and ninth (Indee).
One run separated them here.
“We’ve had a lot of games this year that have been close games, and we’ve had close games through the postseason, of course,” said Independence Coach Matt Miller. “We’ve actually celebrated this throughout the summer, how well our boys handle adversity and the challenges.
“These are high school kids, young men, who could easily fall apart. I would have. But they just say ‘OK,’ someone tells a joke, and they relax, and we’re right back on track.”
This was the third consecutive one-run win for Indee (30-11) in the postseason, including an extra-inning job over Cedar Rapids Xavier in a substate final last week. The Mustangs appeared to be in for a relatively easy victory when they took a 6-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth inning in this game.
But West Delaware (32-11) countered with four runs in that bottom of the fourth and two more in the fifth to square things. All six Hawks runs were scored via ultra-clutch two-out hits, including Luke Kehrli’s RBI double that tied it.
His hit scored Conner Funk, who had just produced a run-scoring triple.
“We just had to believe in each other,” said freshman second baseman Brent Yonkovic, who had a big two-run triple in the fourth. “We started waking up the bats.”
With one out in the top of the sixth, Indee’s Trey Weber lofted a ball to shortstop that got lost in the sun and high sky and dropped for a gift single. Marcus Beatty followed with a double down the third-base line that scored Weber when the hit was misplayed in the left-field corner.
Beatty scored on Mitch Johnson’s RBI single. Beatty went 3-for-4 with two runs and an RBI, Johnson 2-for-4 with three RBIs.
“We knew we weren’t out of it,” Beatty said. “We just knew we needed to switch momentum. Obviously, they had the momentum, but when Trey came up and got the hit, the one that West Delaware did not see, I think that pushed the momentum back to us. I go up there and get a double, and Trey scores. We knew right there the game was ours.”
West Delaware scored a run in the bottom of the sixth to make it 8-7 and got a two-out walk and single in the seventh. Reliever Keegan Palmer got Yonkovic to pop to second to end the game.
Independence plays top-seeded Davenport Assumption (31-6) in the semifinals Wednesday afternoon at 5.
“You get behind pretty big, it’s a long time since we’ve had that situation,” said West Delaware Coach Kevin Werner, whose team had won 14 of 15 coming into the state tournament, including three straight shutout wins in the postseason. “We did a great job battling back and getting it tied at 6. I thought for sure we would be able to coax and push one across and have it come out our way.
“But we weren’t clean enough defensively tonight, we weren’t good enough on the mound tonight. Unfortunately those are our strengths, and they came back to bite us.”
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