DES MOINES — About two years and a week ago, Iowa City West’s baseball team played a weather-delayed state tournament quarterfinal game that began somewhere around 11 p.m. and finished in the wee smalls.
That’s if you consider 1 a.m. to be the wee smalls.
The Trojans repeated late-night history Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Both hour wise and result wise.
West manufactured a pair of go-ahead runs in the third inning and went on to beat Pleasant Valley, 6-3, in a Class 4A quarterfinal that literally began in July and ended in August, officially at 12:34 a.m. The second-ranked Trojans (34-7) get defending champ Urbandale in a Friday afternoon semifinal at 4:30 at Principal Park.
No. 9 Urbandale (29-14) knocked off fifth-ranked Western Dubuque in a preceding quarterfinal. The last two games here Wednesday were pushed back by rain that lasted about two and a half hours.
Two years ago, West’s game against Cedar Rapids Washington began so late because of a multi-hour delay of preceding games caused by anticipated rain that never arrived. So at least it actually did precipitate this time.
“Yes, all over again,” West Coach Charlie Stumpff said, when asked it this felt like deja vu. “Because it’s not good. But, you know, you’ve just got to deal with it. Everybody has the same cards to play.”
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“I think this one started a little earlier,” said West center fielder Jason Strunk, a sophomore on that 2017 West team. “I don’t know what time we finished tonight, but I know last time we finished about 1. Welcome to state, right?”
Each team here scored a run in the first inning, as starting pitchers Marcus Morgan of West and Jack Young of PV uncharacteristically struggled. Morgan, the hard-throwing sophomore, came into this game with an 8-0 record and 0.74 earned run average, while Young was 7-1 with a 1.72 ERA.
Young led off the game with a bloop single over first base, stole second, went to third on the errant throw to try and nab him and scored on a groundout. West leadoff hitter Nick Biancuzzo singled leading off, was bunted to second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a Strunk groundout.
Pleasant Valley (25-12) threatened for a big inning by loading the bases with none out in the third, only to have Morgan recover and strike out the next three hitters. That included coming back on a 3-0 count on the final hitter there.
He finished with 11 Ks in 5 2/3 innings, allowing five hits.
“Obviously that first inning was tough,” he said. “I felt like (starting in) that second inning, I started settling in and hitting my spots (more) ... We haven’t been out here that late before, but I thought we brought good energy. You’ve got to bring energy, create energy.”
Biancuzzo walked leading off the bottom of the inning and went to third on Morgan’s beautifully executed hit-and-run single. A Strunk fielder’s choice grounder scored Biancuzzo. Struck stole second, went to third on a poor throw and scored on a Ryan Cooper RBI groundout.
A Biancuzzo sacrifice fly gave West another run in the fourth for a 4-1 lead. PV got two runs back in the fifth on a two-out Morgan error, as he rushed a throw after failing to cleanly field a one-hop comebacker.
Chase Calderwood’s sacrifice fly plated an unearned run for West in the bottom of the inning to extend the lead back to 5-3. PV knocked Morgan from the game via pitch count and loaded the bases in the sixth, but reliever Ryan Cooper got a lineout to first base to end that Spartans threat.
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West got another insurance run in the bottom of the sixth on Strunk’s third RBI of the game, a two-out oppo bloop double over the first baseman’s head.
“It’s tough to keep the focus this late, but, this team, I felt we all kept that focus,” Strunk said. “We were down in the clubhouse dancing, having fun, keeping it loose. I thought that was really big for our team. We play better when we’re loose.”
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