DES MOINES — Bryce Werderman hasn’t been tagged with a nickname.
Lisbon Coach Travis Bennett may have stumbled upon a moniker that could stick when he called the senior catcher, “Mr. Sixth Inning.”
“It’s true for these last two games,” Werderman said with a laugh.
For the second straight game, he delivered a clutch extra-base hit in the sixth, belting a two-run home run and powering the second-seeded Lions to a 4-2 victory over No. 3 North Linn in a Class 1A state baseball semifinal Thursday at Principal Park.
Lisbon (36-0) beat its Tri-Rivers Conference foe for the third time this season and advanced to the title game Saturday against top-ranked and defending state champion Mason City Newman (39-1).
“To beat that great of a team three times, your confidence is through the roof,” Werderman said. “Undefeated. It’s going to be a great finals game.”
Werderman had a key triple during Lisbon’s sixth-inning rally to beat Don Bosco, 2-1, in the quarterfinal. The way he contributed was an unlikely scenario, doubling his batting average over the last two seasons and hitting one varsity home run before the game-winning blast off Lynx starter Jake Hilmer.
“He just worked his tail off hitting,” Bennett said, “If you were going to tell me we were four outs away and Hilmer is on the mound at Principal Park, that he was going to come up big like this again, never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined he would get up with two outs in the bottom of the sixth and put us up with a home run.
“It wasn’t just a wall scraper. He got into that as hard as he could.”
Lisbon was down by a run with just four outs left. The Lions battled back to tie it thanks to Austin Krob’s double, his gutsy steal of third and Hagen Waters’ infield single.
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Werderman stepped in for the third time, striking out and flying out earlier. Cue “Mr. Sixth Inning.” Werderman jumped on the first pitch and hit the home run over the left-field wall.
“It felt awesome,” Werderman said. “The first day using that bat. Obviously, I’m going to keep using it.
“I knew it was a decent hit right to where I hit the triple last game, but I didn’t think it was going out, especially as far as it did.”
The Lions had been handcuffed by Hilmer, who retired eight straight between Krob hits in the fourth and sixth. With two outs, North Linn elected to pitch to him instead of an intentional walk and Krob made them pay with his second double of the game.
“I second-guessed myself,” North Linn Coach Griffith said. “I should have just put him on. He’s a double and home-run machine.”
The first half of the game seemed eerily similar to Lisbon’s 1-0 victory in the opener of a doubleheader sweep at Troy Mills in June. Krob and Hilmer were locked in a duel between two of 1A’s top pitchers.
Krob was almost as impressive in the rematch, striking out 10 and allowing four hits.
“All you have to do is stay focused, use your head, throw strikes and let the defense do the work,” Krob said. “That’s all we need.”
The Lynx threatened in the seventh. They loaded the bases with two outs, drawing two walks and a Sean Boardman single. Krob, who was facing his last batter at 109 pitches, produced a flyout to Cobe Siebrecht in center to seal it.
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“It was his last possible batter of his high school career,” Bennett said. “He couldn’t have ended it a better way. He’s a special athlete.”
Just like the first matchup, Krob broke the tie with a fourth-inning double, advancing to third on a wild pitch. This time, instead of scoring on an error. Waters hit a sacrifice fly, allowing Krob to beat Ryan Miller’s bullet home for the first run.
North Linn took the lead in the fifth. The Lynx turned a two-out error and walk into runs on Hilmer’s single to left field, scoring pinch-runner Parker Bechen and Miller.
“It’s a game of timing,” Hilmer said. “I was proud of us, stepping up there and getting the bases loaded in the last inning. It shows a lot of fight.”
North Linn tied a school record with 41 victories. Three of four losses were to Lisbon with the other to 2A power Cascade. The Lynx made their second semifinal appearance.
“I'm happy for the way our kids always come and play the game and carry themselves out there,” Griffith said. “It didn’t fall our way today.”
Lisbon returns to the title game for the first time since winning the 1994 championship. The Lions are the state’s lone unbeaten team.
“This has been an unbelievable season for these guys,” Bennett said. “I hope we can just close it out.”
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