CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Washington Coach Scott Brune has some gray in the stubble on his cheek.
The Warriors may have been a cause of some of that gray with their knack for come-from-behind victories, especially with their season on the line.
“I’ve got plenty of gray hair,” Brune said. “I’ll take a win any way we get it. Any way we can.”
For the third time in the postseason, Washington erased an early deficit to extend its year. Jacob Bockenstedt was impressive on the mound and the Warriors tallied five unmatched runs for a 5-2 upset over fourth-ranked Iowa City West in the Class 4A Substate 6 final Wednesday night at West.
Washington (25-17) will make its second straight state appearance and eighth overall, coming at the expense of the Trojans, who eliminated them in the state quarterfinals a year ago.
“It’s awesome,” Washington senior Drew Christensen said. “Last year was a heck of an experience. This year, I think we have an even better chance to make it further.”
The comeback kids found themselves in the exact position they faced in the semifinals against Cedar Rapids Jefferson, trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the first.
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Bockenstedt got lit up immediately. Lucas Karwal hit a triple off the fence to lead off, scoring on a passed ball during a walk to Nick Biancuzzo. Braden Houston had an RBI double and Jason Strunk followed with a hit, putting runners on second and third with none out and forcing assistant coach Kelly O’Rourke to visit Bockenstedt.
Bockenstedt settled in, striking out the next three batters and fanning 11 total in six innings of work.
“I took a deep breath, settled in, realized I have a great defense behind me and we’re not going to quit,” Bockenstedt said. “I did my part. I just kept throwing strikes and everybody kept making plays. It was a great thing.
“I think I was a little too amped up for tonight. I was a little wild to come out.”
Bockenstedt has worked out of trouble in the past, so he was unfazed when he faced jams the next two innings. The Trojans (30-11) placed two runners in scoring position with one out and couldn’t get another run.
“The competitive spirit in that kid is unbelievable,” Brune said. “He had runners in scoring position with less than two outs the first two or three innings and he got out of it.
“He limited the damage, which was huge because it kept us close and within scoring distance.”
Washington kept chipping away and gaining confidence, like the other games. The Warriors loaded the bases in the scoreless third. They received some help to score a run in the fourth, allowing Nolan Cavanaugh to move from first to third on a passed ball and a wild pitch with two outs. He scored when Matyk Hilton reached on a throwing error, cutting the deficit to 2-1.
The Warriors took control in the fifth. Rimmy Nemickas, who pitched the seventh for his second straight save, led off with a double. Bockenstedt looked to sacrifice him to third, but punched his bunt between the first baseman and pitcher, rolling deep on the right side of the infield. Nemickas raced around to tie the game, 2-2.
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“I know we’ve worked on push-bunting over to second base in practice,” Bockenstedt said. “I just gave it a shot and it worked out perfectly.”
Lincoln Riley followed with a single and then Christensen added the big blow. He hit a chopper up the middle of a drawn-in infield to score Bockenstedt and Riley, making it 4-2. Christensen also had an RBI double to score Riley in the seventh for insurance.
Christensen has moved around the order this season for the Warriors. He was in the perfect spot, hitting fifth, against West.
“I don’t have that one spot or job,” Christensen said. “Wherever they put me, I just have to do my part with the varsity experience I’ve had.”
Washington advances to the state quarterfinals Wednesday at Principal Park in Des Moines.
“The road to state wasn’t easy for us this year,” Brune said. “It’s exciting to get to go down and try our luck again at state this year.”
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