TROY MILLS — Well, that escalated quickly.
From a strategic move blowing up in its face to an offensive explosion that all but locked up advancement in less than an inning. The fallout was North Linn’s sixth straight district title.
The second-ranked Lynx unloaded on Jesup with a 12-run fourth and a 14-4 victory in five innings in the Class 2A District 5 final Saturday night at North Linn High School. The Lynx (17-2) advance to the substate final against New Hampton at Waverly.
The turning point in the game came after an intentional walk to load the bases resulted in Gavin Nolan’s three-run double, giving Jesup a 4-2 lead in the top of the fourth.
Ben Wheatley gunned a runner out at the plate to end the half-inning and spark the Lynx. They responded by sending 17 batters to the plate and putting up a dozen runs to take control.
“There were some things that could have really turned this game around,” North Linn Coach Travis Griffith said. “When we got down 4-2, we could have folded.
“I will give the kids some credit. They bounced right back and were impressive for a young group of kids who haven’t had a lot of adversity this year.”
Alex Sturbaum and Corbin Woods opened with consecutive singles. After a sacrifice bunt moved them into scoring position, five straight batters reached — three by error and two walks.
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“We put the ball in play and that’s what happens when we do,” said Lynx starter and leadoff hitter Austin Hilmer. “We get a couple hits, they get a little nervous and make an error or two and they walk a couple. Once you put the ball in play then good things will happen.”
North Linn managed to score five more runs on four hits with two outs, including a two-run single from Sturbaum and a two-run double by Bechen.
“We were just ready to go after they scored those runs,” said Bechen, who also stole home in the third for a brief 2-1 lead. “It was exciting, nerve-racking and fun at the same time.”
Lucas Voss drove in Hilmer in the first, answering Jesup’s run in the opening frame. Woods and Bechen finished with two hits apiece.
“We’re hitting the ball a lot better than I thought we would, especially at the end of the season,” Griffith said. “We’ve seen some good pitching and hitting the ball well, because that’s a really good pitcher. We battled.”
The Lynx look to return to the state tournament. They were runners-up a year ago.
“At the beginning of the season, we had our goals set,” Bechen said. “None of us probably thought we’d get to substate. It means a lot for these four seniors.”
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