DES MOINES — Iowa City High’s postseason has been filled with late-inning magic.
The Little Hawks already produced two walk-off, come-from-behind victories and appeared to reach in their ball caps and conjure one more charmed finish. Unfortunately for City High, its spell and season came to an end.
Dubuque Hempstead’s Andrue Henry lofted a flyball to left field was misplayed with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, allowing two runs to score and propelling the fourth-ranked Mustangs to a 7-6 victory over City High in the Class 4A state baseball quarterfinals Wednesday at Principal Park.
“We battled back,” City High Coach Brian Mitchell said. “We finally got things going and put a lot of pressure on them and I thought that pressure had a lot of impact on the game. It just didn’t work out at the end of the day.
“I’m not disappointed in our effort. It was a great experience for us, but I’m telling you when you see (seniors) Reese (Hayden), (Garrett) Bormann, (Kolbe) Schnoeblen, (Noah) Kabat played a great right field and Kyle Clark didn’t get a chance tonight. … You talk about what those guys have done the last couple years is hard to put this one behind us.”
The Little Hawks (11-9) fell into a 5-1 hole after the second inning and rebounded for the one-run lead in the seventh before the heartbreaking conclusion.
“I’m really proud of our whole team and the way we came back,” Bormann said. “We were down by four and it wasn’t looking good. We all just battled back. I’m really proud of every single one of our teammates.”
City High is no stranger to tight postseason contests. It was tied or behind in both substate games, earning its first state berth since 2003. The Little Hawks trailed by one in their final at-bat and the rally started immediately.
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Egan Smith opened with a single and moved to second on Bormann’s sacrifice. Carter Seaton beat out a hopper to shortstop. A late errant throw went out of play, allowing Smith to score and sending Seaton to second as the go-ahead run.
Gable Mitchell walked and Schnoebelen singled to center, but a good relay cut Seaton down at the plate for the second out. Hempstead’s second error of the inning gave the Little Hawks another shot and Cade Obermueller’s bases-loaded walk put them ahead.
“It wasn’t anything new,” Hayden said. “We know we can get those runs when we need them. We just believed in that and we did it.”
Hempstead put the tying and game-winning runs on base with Michael Garrett’s one-out walk and Zach Sabers getting hit by a pitch with two outs. After a pitching change, Henry came up and put the ball in play.
The confusing sequence included the ball landing by two Little Hawk defenders, base runners stumbling around third and Sabers sliding home in front of a relay throw.
The ending was hard to process for the Little Hawks, leaving some of them stunned.
“It just doesn’t seem real,” Hayden said. “I’ve been playing this game ever since I could walk. Now, it’s over. It’s a really weird feeling.”
The Little Hawks manufactured a run in the first on Bormann’s leadoff walk, stolen base and two straight groundouts. Gable Mitchell plated Bormann for a 1-0 lead.
Hempstead snatched control in a three-run first, capitalizing on some City High control problems. Two of the first three Mustang batters reached base via a hit batsman and walk. Logan Runde stroked an RBI double to left, Max Pins added a sacrifice fly and Dane Schope drew a bases-loaded walk for a 3-1 edge.
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The Mustangs sent nine batters to the plate and forced a pitching change. Hayden threw six innings of relief, allowing four runs and scattering seven hits. His effort limited Hempstead and kept City High within striking distance.
“He’s a competitor,” Brian Mitchell said. “He knows how to mix pitches, keep hitters off balance and let the defense make plays. He’s very calm. He’s very collected and that says a lot.”
Pins’ two-run double in the second and Henry’s hitless four innings seemingly put Hempstead in control. The Little Hawks remained confident in a comeback.
“In the top of the fourth, we brought everyone together and we were down by four runs,” Bormann said. “We can come back and get these. We got our confidence back and did what we could.”
City High started to chip away with runs in each of the last three innings, starting with Bormann’s fifth-inning single to score Hayden, who led off with an opposite-field base hit.
Gable Mitchell led off the sixth with a single and Schnoebelen walked. They scored on consecutive groundouts by Joey Bouska and Obermueller, cutting the deficit to 5-4.
“I know we’ve got heart,” Brian Mitchell said. “We’ve got grinders. It’s never been a question about the heart that we’ve got.
“We’re not always the best or strongest team but we battle as much as anybody. They’re just tough kids and they get the most out of themselves.”
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