CEDAR RAPIDS — According to the National Weather Service, the forecast for Wednesday afternoon in Des Moines is increasing clouds with a high of 84 degrees. There is little to no chance of precipitation.
The Cedar Rapids Washington baseball team is owed that, at the very least.
The Warriors play top-ranked defending state champion Johnston in a Class 4A state tournament quarterfinal at Principal Park, and it’d be awesome if the game actually is played at 1:30 p.m. Or somewhere in the vicinity of 1:30.
Washington’s quarterfinal last year against Iowa City West was the game that just wouldn’t start.
“I remember waiting,” said Washington Coach Scott Brune. “And waiting. And waiting. Seeing the field perfectly playable, having the tarp sitting on it and no rain coming down.”
Slated for a 5 p.m., first pitch, Wash and West didn’t get going until 10:40 p.m., finishing at approximately 12:45 a.m. The reason was a rain delay in which there was no rain.
“Just the anticipation of getting to play and then having to wait an extra five hours. That’s what I remember,” said Washington’s Jacob Bockenstedt. “It was just unplanned. It wasn’t the best of circumstances.”
The 4A day last year began 45 minutes late because of a legit rain delay. Cedar Rapids Prairie and Waukee played their game, Linn-Mar and Johnston warmed up, took infield and were ready to go about 2:30 p.m., only to have the Iowa High School Athletic Association and host Iowa Cubs pull the plug, concerned about storms in the vicinity.
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The thing was those storms never actually got to Principal Park, continually building to the west, then breaking up or moving elsewhere. In the meantime, everyone sat around ... and sat around and sat around.
“What I remember is we were just so excited to be there,” said Washington’s Drew Christensen. “I don’t really think we cared what time the game started. We’d been there all day and were just ready to play. How I remember it is if the game started at midnight, we still wanted to play.”
They came darned close to starting at midnight. Washington’s team bus pulled into Des Moines about 2 p.m., with players spending the majority of their time in a suite at Principal Park, trying to stave off boredom and keep sharp mentally if and when they got the go ahead.
“We went down to Fuzzy’s Tacos a couple different times,” Bockenstedt said. “A couple of guys got Jimmy John’s. It was in and out of the stadium all day, it felt like. Just try and keep ourselves entertained and try and keep our minds off the game because you didn’t know when it would come.”
“You can’t get up for a game when you don’t know when you’re going to play,” Brune said. “I just tried to keep everyone ready to play once that announcement came. Unfortunately, they didn’t give us a whole lot of updates along the way. It was just ‘We’re going to wait. We’re going to wait. We’re going to wait.’ There was a game ahead of ours. Looking back, you wonder what would have happened had we waited and played the next day. You never know.”
Ultimately, Linn-Mar and Waukee began their game at 8 p.m., with the decision made to then have Washington and West play instead of the schools going back home and playing the next day. West won via mercy rule in six innings, 12-2.
“I don’t think it made a difference in the outcome,” Christensen said.
Washington (25-17) certainly is the underdog this time around, an eight seed playing a club with a 34-5 record. But with Bockenstedt on the mound, it can beat anyone.
With last year’s state tourney debacle and the adversity this season of a plethora of injuries and illnesses, this group is battle tested.
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“I think we’ll be a little more prepared this year,” Brune said. “We’ve got a core group of guys who have grown from last year. They’re a year older, seniors, and that will only benefit us.”
They know they can play with Johnston and harbor no ill will for what they went through last year.
“As long as the game this year is on time,” Christensen said, with a smile.
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