116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — T.J. Deardorff soaked in the sun and absorbed the rising temperature.
By the time he finished his pregame routine, the Coe right-hander sensed he was poised for a strong outing.
“The warm day is always nice, maybe not when it’s 90 (degrees),” Deardorff said. “I always feel better when it’s warmer. I felt good in the pen and I let that energy carry over into the game.”
Coe received his best outing of the season. Deardorff recorded his second complete game of the season, powering the fifth-seeded Kohawks to a 3-0 shutout over No. 4 Luther in the first round of the American Rivers Conference baseball tournament Thursday at Bill Quinby Field at Daniels Park.
“It was our best stepping up,” Coe Coach Steve Cook said. “He is our best. He’s been our best for a while. He really kind of owned that and the leadership role and made it all happen.”
Deardorff (6-5) produced when the Kohawks needed their ace the most, scattering five hits with six strikeouts, a walk and one hit batsman. He faced 32 total batters, including just one more than the minimum over the final five innings. Only two Luther runners reached scoring position.
“I was throwing down,” Deardorff said about his location. “Let my defense field groundballs and when we went up we got some swings and misses, fly balls and everything was working the right way for us.”
Much of the reason was Deardorff’s control and placement with pitches. He threw 105 total pitches and Cook estimated he missed his target a mere 10 to 12 times.
“He was so good,” Cook said. “He moved the ball in and out. He really commanded his fastball and that is where it starts with him. He’s got good off-speed, but if he’s commanding his fastball, moving it in and out, he’s really tough. He did that today.”
Deardorff received plenty of support from his defense. Despite a few miscues, Coe’s defense thwarted Norse threats with timely plays.
The first came during a two-out rally in the fourth. The Norse had two on when Cullen Stamp laced a line drive to right. Coe’s Tyler Elliott charged the ball and delivered a strike to catcher James VanHooser to cut down Aiden Michna at the plate and end the inning.
VanHooser also threw out a runner attempting to advance to second on a ball in the dirt for the first out in the eighth.
Cook said those plays can deflate the opposition.
“We got a big play out of Tyler Elliott, throwing the runner out at the plate,” Cook said. “A big momentum play. We’re still up 1-0 at that point.
“For us to erase those guys in those moments, those were just unbelievable plays for us.”
Coe recorded two crucial double plays, holding on to 1-0 lead in the middle innings. After a leadoff single in the sixth, the Norse hit into a 4-6-3 double play. Luther reached on an error in the seventh. Coe third baseman Jack Allison caught the ensuing line drive and doubled the runner off first to end the inning.
No one appreciated it more than Deardorff.
“Double plays are always nice, especially when you feel like the momentum could be turning the other way,” Deardorff said. “Those were huge to get things back on our side and stay there the rest of the game.”
The Kohawks manufactured runs in the third, eighth and ninth. Jacob Brosius walked and moved to second on a T.J. Johnson single. Reid Rausch followed with a single to left to score Brosius for the 1-0 lead.
Two hit batsmen and a wild pitch led to Allison’s sacrifice fly that chased home Rausch to double the lead. Elliott helped add an insurance run in the final frame. He was hit by a pitch, reached second on VanHooser’s sacrifice and scored on a Brosius single.
“In playoff baseball, we’ll take any win no matter what it looks like,” Cook said. “The formula worked for this first one.”