CEDAR RAPIDS — After one swing of the baseball bat flipped Iowa City Liberty from an out away from victory to down by a run, Coach Tom Cronk had a simple message for his team coming to bat.
“Just do what we do,” Cronk said after the Lightning tied a Class 4A substate quarterfinal game in the bottom of the seventh inning and went on to defeat Cedar Rapids Washington in nine frames, 8-7, Friday night at Mount Mercy’s Plaster Athletic Complex. “Pitch to pitch, we’re going to play one at a time and we’re going to keep fighting.”
Down to its last two outs, a sacrifice fly by Liberty junior Isaac Bender scored Cory Schroeder with the tying run in the bottom of the seventh inning. Liberty sophomore relief pitcher Ethan O’Donnell (3-1) held Cedar Rapids Washington scoreless over the two extra frames, which allowed his offense to load the bases in the ninth and win the game on a one-out wild pitch.
“He has got a closer mentality,” Cronk said. “We have been using him at the back end of games and I think when he starts, he maybe saves a little bit. Where he comes in at the end of the game, he knows, ‘I am just throwing BB’s.’ He has got great stuff, great command, his ball moves. He is just really good to have around.”
Washington (12-28) used a four-run second inning, highlighted by a two-run single by Benjamin Skogman, to jump ahead of Liberty by three runs. The Lightning responded with two runs in the third inning and three in the fourth, including a game-tying home run by O’Donnell, his first this season.
“I just tried to hit the ball hard,” O’Donnell said. “Good things happen.”
Liberty junior Jacob Norris pitched five strong innings of relief, but was tagged for a two-out, two-run double by Matyk Hilton that gave Washington a 7-6 lead in the top of the seventh.
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Nolan Frey drove in two runs and Tyler Dahm scored three times for Liberty (23-17), which will host a substate semifinal game on Monday against West Des Moines Valley (16-18).
“Keep the bats rolling, keep believing, keep the bench energy up and we have got a good shot,” O’Donnell said.
CLASS 4A SUBSTATE QUARTERFINAL
Iowa City Liberty 8, Cedar Rapids Washington 7
C.R. Washington 040 100 200—7
I.C. Liberty 102 300 101—8
Mick McCurry, Jabari Dobbs (4), Joseph McKinstry (9) and Benjamin Skogman. Nolan Frey, Jacob Norris (3), Ethan O’Donnell (8) and Sam Funke. W — O’Donnell (3-1); L — Dobbs (0-5). HR — O’Donnell (1).
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