Prep Baseball

Alburnett overcomes shaky start for first win at state baseball tournament

Pirates come back to beat South Winneshiek 13-4 in Class 1A quarterfinals

DES MOINES — Alburnett weathered two storms.

The first came from South Winneshiek. The other came from rains that caused about a 55-minute delay. Neither could dampen the Pirates’ hopes to advance.

Third-ranked Alburnett scored the final 13 runs and Caden Evans tossed a complete game, overcoming a first-inning deficit and defeating South Winneshiek, 13-4, in a Class 1A state baseball quarterfinal game Saturday at Principal Park.

The Pirates (33-5) earned the program’s first state baseball victory and move on to the semifinals Thursday against No. 10 Remsen St. Mary’s (27-7), starting at 1:30 p.m.

“It’s everything to get this first win in school history,” Alburnett’s Reed Stallman said. “It’s pretty crazy.”

“We’re just pretty confident. We’re riding the wave right now.”

Butterflies accompanied the start of Alburnett’s second state tournament and first since 2006. Evans allowed four runs on three hits, suffering some control problems falling behind batters, walking one and plunking another.

He remained confident of a comeback.

“I struggled in that first inning, but I knew my teammates would come back with a hit and get us going again,” Evans said. “The guys do well in that situation. … I kind of had jitters in the first inning.”

Alburnett answered immediately. Stallman drove in Hunter Caves with a sacrifice fly and Luke Smith added the first of his two RBI singles to slice the Warriors’ lead in half before the next inning.

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The top of the order responded again in the second. Caves had a one-out single and Austin Huber walked for the second time. Stallman laced a two-run double into the right-field corner to score both and tie the game. Stallman scored on Smith’s hit that gave the Pirates the lead for good.

“Even though we didn’t get that lead back in the first inning, the guys knew they could hit the ball,” Alburnett Coach Ryan Stensland said. “They said, ‘OK, we’ve got this. We’re going to chip away’ and they just kept putting up the runs.”

Alburnett added two more in the third. Caves had an RBI double, stole third and scored when the throw skipped into left field.

The tarp appeared and lightning halted action before the rain. Evans said he paced and tried to keep moving during the intermission. The Pirates remained loose and ready for the restart.

“We knew they would come back with energy and we knew we had to do the same thing,” Stallman said. “We really just stayed focused.”

Evans shed any nerves by the second. He threw with command, retiring South Winneshiek in order and ending the inning with consecutive strikeouts. He allowed just one hit the final six innings.

Stensland stayed with Evans through the rough start and after the break. The goal was to get one more inning and relievers were ready, but Evans went the distance.

“I think he had a little bit of everything thrown at him today,” Stensland said. “He buckled down and threw some big pitches. Our defense helped him out, too. There were two huge double plays there and that helped us seal the deal.”

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Those key defensive contributions came on the back end of the rain delay. The Warriors looked for a rally after the break. A walk and a single put two on with one out in the fourth, but the Pirates turned a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.

Second baseman Kale Rose nabbed a one-out line drive and doubled off a runner to end the fifth.

“Those last few innings it was nice to have those double plays,” Evans said. “That was huge. Kale knocking down all those balls and Hunter being at the bag ready to turn it was pretty good.”

South Winneshiek (29-10) stunned the Pirates at the start. Noah Tieskoetter opened the game with a double to center. Cael Kuboushek walked and Seth Grove was plunked to load the bases. Kody Kleve delivered a two-run single and Ethan Luzum followed with a double for a 4-0 lead.

The Warriors only managed one hit the rest of the way and didn’t reach third base after the first inning.

South Winneshiek made its second state appearance and first since reaching the 2A quarterfinals in 2014. The two-time defending Upper Iowa Conference champions have just one senior on this season’s roster.

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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