116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CARROLL — Alburnett Coach Ryan Stensland called it electric.
Hunter Caves said it was a “moon shot” and wondered if it had landed, yet.
Pirates senior Reed Stallman’s home run from a powerful swing followed by an emphatic foot stomp on home plate after it cleared the scoreboard behind the right-field fence put a charge into his teammates.
“As soon as I hit it I knew,” Stallman said. “I made sure to get out of the box and unhook the plow. It felt so good to get it done for my team. We needed every single run tonight.”
His three-run blast and six total RBIs helped propel sixth-seeded Alburnett to an 8-6 victory over No. 3-seed Tri-Center in a Class 1A state baseball quarterfinal Monday night at Merchants Park.
“A great effort by our guys,” Stensland said. “I’m extremely proud of them.”
Stallman was 2-for-3 and reached on an error. The Pirates offense stalled slightly when he stepped to the plate in the fifth. Gavin Soukup reached on one of his two singles, while Andrew Ossman walked. His blast provided some breathing room with a four-run advantage.
“Big-time players make big-time plays,” Stensland said. “That describes Reed.”
Stallman was also involved in a key play in the seventh. Caves reached on an RBI single to score Soukup, stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error.
Stallman put down a sacrifice bunt. Caves got a late break, thinking the ball might be caught in the error. The throw from first beat him to the plate, but he stepped around the catcher and stepped safely on the far corner of the plate.
“It was a last-minute thing,” Caves said. “I had to decide to slide by or do some fancy footwork. The fancy footwork paid off.”
Those runs proved vital. Tri-Center rallied again with two more in the seventh and brought the tying run to the plate three straight at-bats.
Alburnett reliever Caden Evans thwarted the rally with a pop out, fly out and strikeout. He worked 1 2/3 innings, stranding the bases loaded in the sixth.
“He always puts me in those situations,” Evans said. “I’ve done it my whole life.”
The Pirates (29-9) wasted little time grabbing the lead. Caves provided the early spark with a leadoff triple. Ossman’s walk put runners on the corners with none out, bringing Reed Stallman to the plate.
Stallman gave Alburnett another jolt, ripping a double that chased home Caves and Ossman as Stallman was thrown out at third.
Caves doubled and scored on an errant pick-off throw in the third, giving the Pirates a 3-0 lead.
“All of us, especially the upperclassmen, we have to start right away,” said Caves, who finished a home run away from the cycle. “Coach got us good preparation. We were scouting fastballs. I got a fastball right where I wanted it, started it and everyone else came through.”
Tri-Center (28-3) sliced the lead to one in the fourth. Trent Kozeal and Justice Weers singled. Both raced home on Kaden McDermott’s single to center.
The Trojans threatened for more with a runner on third and two outs but second-baseman Brayden Smith made a jumping catch on a looper that looked destined for the outfield grass to end it.
The Pirates advance to the state semifinals for the second time in three seasons, placing second in 2019. They face second-seeded Council Bluffs St. Albert (33-8) Wednesday at noon.
“It’s awesome,” Evans said. “We’ve been looking forward to it all year. Our bats have been hot.”