DES MOINES — Baseball can be a fickle and humbling game.
Sometimes the ball just doesn’t land in your favor. Other times it seems to go your way.
Things seemed to go right more often for Urbandale, while Iowa City West wasn’t as fortunate.
The ninth-ranked J-Hawks took control with a pair of three-run innings early and pulled away late for a 10-2 victory over the No. 2 Trojans in the Class 4A state baseball semifinals Friday night at Principal Park. Urbandale (30-14) will attempt to defend its state title Saturday against top-ranked Johnston.
The J-Hawks built a 6-0 lead and scored two in each of the final two innings, applying pressure with 10 stolen bases and tallying 12 hits.
“They got a lead and smelled a little blood,” West Coach Charlie Stumpff said. “They just kept coming after us. They played exceptionally well.”
Urbandale jumped on top in the second. Garrett Purcell and Cal Watson opened with singles. Watson’s was the first of two infield bloop hits that just fell on the grass in front of the shortstop without a play to be made.
The second resulted in an RBI for Josh Neyens, who scored Watson after a sacrifice bunt, Alex Augustine’s sacrifice fly to score Purcell and a balk. Ty Cowley added a flare that dropped into left to plate Neyens for a 3-0 edge. The J-Hawks chased starter Casey Marvin from the game, despite not hitting him hard.
“Those are just daggers, because Casey made pitches” Stumpff said. “You missed the fat part of their bat. They’re not hitting shots.
“I don’t know how many pop-ups over the pitcher you’ve seen (and) two in one inning.”
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The lead allowed the J-Hawks to play to their strengths. They doubled the lead in the fourth. Gehrig Christensen ripped a three-run double, chasing home Neyens, Brook Heinen and Cowley.
It was much more support than Urbandale starter Ty Langenberg needed. Langenberg stymied the Trojans’ bats, allowing just four hits and striking out 12. He threw 114 pitches, leaving the game with one out to go due to the pitch-count limit.
Stumpff said the Trojans needed to grab an early lead. West actually had runners in scoring position in each of the first three innings but stranded seven runners through four innings.
“He’s really good,” Stumpff said. “I think we made him work exceptionally hard, so tip your hat to him.
“He throws really hard. We’re having him at 88-91 (miles per hour). That’s stuff we don’t see. Then he elevates and our guys were swinging at high fastballs. That’s hard to get to.”
Senior Chase Calderwood led West with two hits. Both were leadoff singles.
“You have to be mentally prepared before the game and transfer that over to the game,” Calderwood said. “I feel like I did that pretty well.”
Calderwood started the Trojan rally in the fourth. Ben Vander Leest reached on a walk. Biancuzzo belted a shot to right field for a two-run triple, cutting the deficit to 6-2.
Biancuzzo’s shot provided a brief spark present in previous come-from-behind victories.
“With our team, we know we can come back from whatever,” said Biancuzzo, noting the extra-inning win over Iowa City High and erasing a large deficit to Dubuque Hempstead. “You just get one big hit and you feel like you get everything rolling.”
Langenberg and reliever Dillon Kuehl only allowed one hit the rest of the way.
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West closed the season at 34-8 with the program’s ninth trip to the semifinals. The loss was hard to swallow for the tight-knit Trojans, who were as close away from the field as they were pulling for each other on it. They shared a strong bond formed when they started playing together at age 8.
“I think that played a role this whole season,” Calderwood said. “Even in the dugout, someone is always cheering. Someone is always up. We’re not getting more than 30 wins without that. I feel that played a big part.”
Stumpff said this team understood teamwork and unity. Their camaraderie made it one of the more fun teams he has coached.
“They are a talented group, but our whole is more than our parts,” Stumpff said. “I’ve just had a blast this year. They’re an incredible bunch. We were hoping to sneak out a couple more wins out of this, but they made it so enjoyable this year.”
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