MARION — Linn-Mar’s Colin Streff wants the ball in his hand.
The bigger the moment the better.
It was evident when he threw more than half of the Lions’ postseason opener Friday and then answered the call just three days later with their playoff hopes on the line again.
“All the time,” Streff said about accepting pressure situations. “I just want to do what’s best for my team. Get the outs. Get the big outs and move on to the next game.”
Streff delivered a complete game two-hitter and helped lead Linn-Mar to a 7-3 victory over Cedar Rapids Washington in the Class 4A Substate 6 semifinal Monday night at Oak Ridge Middle School. The Lions (7-8) will play second-seeded Iowa City High (10-8) for a state berth Wednesday at Mercer Park in Iowa City.
“I told him and the group that he bit the bullet for us,” Linn-Mar Coach Kyle Rodenkirk said. “It saved our entire pitching staff going into Wednesday, so now we have all hands on deck for a good City High. It should be a fun atmosphere.”
Rodenkirk pulled him just one batter shy of closing out Friday’s first-round game to limit his pitch count and bring him back against the Warriors. The strategy paid dividends. Streff limited the Warriors to a three-run second inning and held them scoreless the rest of the time, striking out six with 70 of his 107 pitches going for strikes.
“I was trying to blow it by them the first two innings,” Streff said. “I came back and threw strikes. I did my job and put the ball in play. Good things will happen.
“I just fixed up my mechanics and threw strikes.”
For Streff, the weekend consisted of rest, icing, conditioning, resistance bands, TV and lots of water to recover. He was rested and ready, focusing on pounding the zone.
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“He’s a tough kid,” Rodenkirk said. “It was a high-energy atmosphere game on Friday. I told our guys it would be tough to match that. It’s just got to come from within. Obviously, the fans are so far away that it almost felt like a scrimmage.
“I thought he did a good job, rebounding and checking himself there in the second inning. He said this is my game and I’m going to take it. He did a great job of it.”
The Warriors (3-12) took an early lead thanks to two hit batsmen, with Steff plunking Max Nemickas to score Reid Ortiz for the first run, two errors and a bases-loaded walk to Ben Kuba to bring in Daniel Zeck. He responded with two strikeouts to quash the rally and start a stretch of eight straight batters retired.
He needed just four pitches to sit Washington down in order the next inning.
“He finally got his breaking stuff to work,” Rodenkirk said. “The first two innings he was struggling with his breaking ball and off-speed. He was a one-pitch pitcher and then something clicked. He finally got it going and his mechanics looked a lot better. He was in a good rhythm.”
Linn-Mar answered immediately. Coy Sarsfield had a base hit and scored in the four-run second. He also drew a walk and scored the final run of the three-run third that started with back-to-back singles from Brendyn Mussig and Andy Althoff. Isaac Anderson and Jonah Albrecht each had an RBI for Linn-Mar.
“We have to get everybody playing the same and I think we are,” Rodenkirk said. “The train is rolling a little bit faster. It’s a good thing.”
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