CEDAR RAPIDS — For Cedar Rapids Washington, it wasn’t a matter of if, but when.
The Warriors continued to put runners on base early, but had nothing to show for it. Their persistence at the plate paid dividends.
Washington overcame a slow start and scored all its runs in two innings, defeating Cedar Rapids Jefferson, 5-3, in the Class 4A Substate 6 semifinal Monday night at Jefferson.
The Warriors (24-17) stranded six runners the first three innings before scoring two in the fourth and three more in the third to take control and move a victory away from their second straight tournament berth.
“We know we are going to eventually break through,” Washington Coach Scott Brune said. “We were right there for the first three innings. Eventually, we’re going to get a hit and we did.”
The run support complemented a strong performance from Nick Nading. He pitched into the sixth, giving up three runs on six hits after a two-run, four-hit first with two outs. Rimmy Nemickas pitched two innings of relief to close his second straight postseason game.
Washington had a two-run lead, going to the seventh, and Nemickas had to face the top of the J-Hawks order. He got a strikeout to end the game with the tying run at the plate.
“Adrenaline helped a little bit,” said Nemickas, noting he has had control issues this season. “I found the release point, warming up and kept it there.”
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After putting the first two batters on base in two of the first three innings, the third time proved to be the charm for the Warriors. Washington finally broke through in the fourth with a little help, putting the leadoff batters on for the third time in the game.
Nading, who had two hits and a walk, led off with a single and Matyk Hilton reached on a dropped fly ball. Nemickas followed with a one-out RBI single to get Washington on the board. Lincoln Riley connected on an RBI double to drive in Hilton, tying the game 2-2
“We kept leaving guys on and we weren’t executing,” Nading said. “We honestly just got tired of it. We wanted to score some runs. We strung some hits together and everyone did their job.”
Washington grabbed its first lead the following inning. Nolan Cavanaugh, who had a game-high three hits, singled and Nading came through with a double, placing runners at and second and third with none out.
All-stater Brady Bunten, who was expected to miss the rest of the season due to injury, made an appearance, pinch-hitting for his replacement Hilton. Bunten reached on an error when his slow hopper was misplayed, trying to throw home for an out.
“Great to have to have that kid back,” Brune said. “We’ve been missing him since he went out a few weeks ago.”
Nemickas contributed again with a sacrifice fly to drive in a run and Bockenstedt followed with an RBI double the next at-bat, giving Washington a 5-2 edge.
“You just have to want it,” Nemickas said. “If you want it more, you’re going to do bigger things.”
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Jefferson (28-14) was clutch in the opening innings, taking a 2-0 lead. The J-Hawks tallied four consecutive two-out hits. Chase Keeney sparked the rally with a base hit. T.J. Kuennen followed with a double. Willie Guy Jr. and Logan Pady added back-to-back RBI singles to left field.
Jefferson pulled within 5-3 in the bottom of the sixth. Guy reached on an error and stole second. After a sacrifice moved Guy to third, Ozzie Meiborg managed an RBI groundout and the J-Hawks were within two going into the final inning.
Washington advances to the substate final at fourth-ranked Iowa City West (30-10) on Wednesday, beginning at 7 p.m.
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