CEDAR RAPIDS — Charlie Sheen coined the phrase “Winning” to describe his success.
Winning feels good and is the benchmark for most sports teams, even for first-year programs like Iowa City Liberty baseball and teams without “Wild Thing” Ricky Vaughn. The Lightning want to make “winning” the expectation and the sooner the better.
“The whole state keeps telling us we don’t have to win,” Liberty Coach Tom Cronk said. “We’re young. We’re going to be good and I’m saying we want to get off the bus and we want to compete.
“We’re not going to win every game and we know that but we want to get off the bus, thinking we have a chance.”
Liberty notched a notable victory, earning a doubleheader split with Class 1A fifth-ranked Alburnett Wednesday night at Mount Mercy’s Plaster Athletic Complex. The Pirates won the opener, 4-2, but the Lightning rebounded to take the nightcap, 2-1.
“These guys are tough and can compete,” Cronk said. “They are all baseball guys and it’s awesome.”
Runs were at a premium in the second game but Liberty demonstrated it can manufacture runs. T.J. Kimm provided an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth, driving in Keian Secrist with the game-winning run. Secrist walked and moved into scoring position on a Sam Funke single.
“He came out feeling good and got a hit,” Cronk said. “That’s a huge hit for us. I can’t say enough about what T.J. has done every day in practice.”
Tyler Dahm helped Liberty even the score the previous inning. He led off with a walk, stole second and reached the plate thanks to two wild pitches, making it one apiece. Dahm also earned the save, pitching the final inning. Ethan O’Donnell pitched into the sixth and Funke bridged the gap to Dahm, who set the Pirates down in order.
Liberty is just 8-14, but the victory can serve as a learning experience.
“Playing close with a good team like this will keep us sharp,” Funke said. “We can just build off it.”
In the opener, Alburnett (26-4) smacked 10 hits. Keaton Parker had two hits in each game, scored twice in the opener and drove in the only Pirate score in the nightcap. Reed Stallman was 3-for-4 with an RBI and Austin Huber added two hits and an RBI in the first game.
Alburnett Coach Ryan Stensland said the twinbill was a good learning experience with a playoff feel, including a four-person umpire crew that worked the game.
“We gained a lot out of this tonight,” Stensland said. “They are a good young team with a lot of young talent. We’d like to think we’ve got some, too.
“This was good for our kids to be put in a pressure situation and that was 14 innings of kind of a grind.”
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