MARION — Seniors on the Cedar Rapids Jefferson baseball team are in store for a busy Thursday.
Not only will they prepare to receive their diploma during the school’s commencement ceremony in the evening, the J-Hawks have a game to play in the afternoon.
“I’m looking forward to that,” Jefferson senior Chase Keeney said, “but baseball first, though.”
Eighth-ranked Jefferson rallied for a seven-run sixth inning for an 8-5 victory over No. 10 Cedar Rapids Washington in the semifinals of the Bob Vrbicek Metro baseball tournament Wednesday night at Oak Ridge Middle School. The J-Hawks (2-0) will have a chance to defend their tournament title at Mount Mercy, starting at 3 p.m.
“We have three goals and this is our first one,” Jefferson’s Ozzie Meiborg said. “The Metro championship.”
The Warriors (1-1) seemed poised to reach their third consecutive tournament final, leading 5-1 through five innings.
In the sixth, Jefferson mounted a huge two-out comeback, sending 13 batters to the plate and propelling past Washington. The J-Hawks demonstrated the confidence at the plate they expected from this lineup.
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“We’re just trying to barrel balls up,” Jefferson Coach Terry Schneekloth said. “That’s our goal. Sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t and when it happens in a streak like it did, you get big innings.”
Willie Guy, who scored on a throwing error, opened with a single and consecutive walks to Keeney and Drake Frazier chased starter Mick McCurry, who had allowed just two hits and three total base runners through five.
Meiborg’s infield single loaded the bases with one out. After a strikeout, the J-Hawks put six straight batters on base.
“The atmosphere was great,” Keeney said. “It was loud. We were ready to put more numbers on the board.”
The bottom of the order produced. No. 7 batter Spencer Smith delivered a two-run single and Jaxson Kevitt followed with a two-run double to center, giving Jefferson a 6-5 lead. Keeney capped the inning with a two-run double for insurance.
“That’s baseball,” Meiborg said. “One thing leads to another and to another. It doesn’t matter if it’s a home run or a swinging bunt. You just keep on rolling and that’s what we did.”
Meiborg, the starting shortstop, made a couple starts last season and could have an increased role on the mound. He knew he could be called on and was ready. Meiborg threw three innings of relief, including two scoreless, for the win.
“He didn’t lose his confidence,” Schneekloth said about giving up a sacrifice fly and two singles to the first three he faced. “He kept putting the ball in the zone.”
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Meiborg made a couple nice defensive plays on the mound, including a sliding grab on a botched sacrifice bunt attempt after Washington threatened when the first two batters reached base in the bottom of the sixth.
“It was a big play,” Schneekloth said. “How many pitchers make that play? It is really nice having a shortstop on the mound.”
Seven Washington players had a hit. Isaac Gomez led the Warriors with two RBIs. Draedan Spang had an RBI single in the two-run second and Rimmy Nemickas had a run-scoring double in the three-run fifth.
Xavier 17, Prairie 2 (4)
Cedar Rapids Xavier continued its offensive onslaught that led to an 11-run first inning and a victory in the semifinals of the Metro baseball tournament. The Saints advance to face defending champion Jefferson.
The Saints have scored 30 runs in nine innings in their first two games.
Kyle Moeder produced the early punch belting a three-run home just three batters into the game and Xavier capitalized on three Prairie errors in the opening frame to start the route.
Moeder tallied three hits and four RBIs to lead Xavier, which got two hits each from Pat McGinn, Garrett Riies and Derrick Skala, McGinn had a double, two walks and three runs.
Nick Banowetz had a triple and drove in three runs, while Quinn Schulte and Isaac Ball had two RBIs apiece for Xavier. Bryson Bastian threw three innings to earn the win.
Harrison Cook and Hunter Whinery each had two hits and scored a run for Prairie (1-1). Logan Andeway added two RBIs for the Hawks, who play Washington in the third-place game after the championship.
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