CEDAR RAPIDS — Survive and advance. Linn-Mar baseball coach Kyle Rodenkirk said that is what it is all about this time of year after the Lions scratched and clawed their way to a victory.
Fourth-seeded Linn-Mar defeated third-seeded Iowa City West, 5-2, in a Class 4A Substate 6 quarterfinal game Friday night at Memorial Stadium. The Lions (6-8) will host Cedar Rapids Washington in the substate semifinal Monday.
Linn-Mar managed three runs in two innings without the benefit of a hit.
“We worked hard the past couple days working on small ball,” Rodenkirk said. “It’s kind of our M.O. I said it was going to be our road to state and the guys really bought into it. They worked hard and executed well.”
Sarsfield’s athleticism allowed Linn-Mar to get on the board in the first. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and groundout after a leadoff walk.
Despite a pitch stopping about 5 feet behind the catcher, Sarsfield broke for the plate and stepped around the diving tag to score for a 1-0 lead.
“He’s fun, man,” Rodenkirk said with a big smile. “He’s got killer instincts and it’s fun to see him. He’s our spark. Once he’s going, we go.”
The Lions added to their lead in the fourth. Brendyn Mussig was hit by a pitch to open the inning and Andy Althoff followed with a triple to right field, bringing in courtesy runner Sam Wilson. Althoff scored on a throwing error, making it 3-0.
West trimmed the lead to one with runs in the fourth and fifth. A pair of safety squeeze plays allowed Althoff and Sarsfield to score in the fifth to restore the three-run advantage.
Bunting is considered an outdated skill. The Lions put down four to move runners.
“In this day and age, everything is a showcase, showcase, showcase and it is a lost art,” Rodenkirk said. “That to me is still baseball, especially for a team batting .265, so we have to scratch and claw.
“They did a great job tonight. We have a few things to clean up, like everybody.”
Sarsfield drew three bases on balls and was hit by a pitch. Isaac Anderson had two of the Lions’ four hits and reached based three times.
Sarsfield threw three strong innings at the start. Colin Streff worked the final four. He worked himself out of a bases-loaded jam with none out in the fifth. Will Hoeft’s RBI single drove in Marcus Morgan, but Streff followed with a strikeout. First baseman Kane Deutmeyer’s heads-up assist for a force at home and his catch of a pop-up behind the bag ended the threat.
Streff stifled the Trojans for another 1 2/3 innings. He struck out the side in the sixth and notched two more in the seventh before giving way to Carson Recker for the final out.
“He did outstanding,” Rodenkirk said. “I knew he was going to do good. He was sharp and is ready to go for next week.”
West (7-8) stranded eight runners, leaving the bases loaded twice. John Syata’s groundout scored Collin Leavy for the Trojans’ first run in the fourth. Morgan reached on three bases on balls, while Brett Cherry and Nathan Gudenkauf were the only other Trojans with hits.
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