ALBURNETT — North Cedar baseball coach Adam Hadenfeldt noticed a relaxed and excited atmosphere during pregame batting practice.
Knights senior Tyler Thurston attributed it to the fact that some are playing for the last time and they want to enjoy this last chance.
“With everything going on, you don’t know if it’s going to be your last time to go out there and play some ball,” Thurston said. “We’re going out there and playing like it’s our last.
“We were out there. We were having fun.”
The Knights were able to savor their first postseason victory since 2013 and the season extended at least one more day. Thurston and Tadan Lange belted three-run home runs in consecutive innings, powering North Cedar to a 7-2 victory over Midland Monday night in a Class 1A District 7 quarterfinal at Alburnett Park.
“It was a big win for us as a program,” North Cedar Coach Adam Hadenfeldt said. “It’s been a long, long time and we beat a quality, well-coached team. We felt capable of doing it. It was a matter of doing it. I feel really good for the guys.”
Rain postponed the game in the top of the third inning Saturday. The Knights were batting with the bases loaded, one out and down 1-0 when play resumed. Lange tied the game when he reached on a two-out error.
Seven straight North Cedar batters were retired when Gage Walshire and Lange were plunked to start the sixth, bringing up Thurston, who had one of the Knights’ two regular-season homers.
He drilled a two-strike changeup over the left field fence, giving North Cedar a 4-2 lead.
“I just sat back on it,” said Thurston, who pitched two innings of scoreless relief for the save. “I just wound up and let her rip. It was awesome. Definitely, it was what we needed. It picked us up and gave us energy.”
The following inning an error and walk set up Lange’s first home run of the year.
“We only got two hits but they were real big ones,” Hadenfeldt said. “I felt really good about it. We had a really good BP session and the guys were dialed in. If you’re only going to get two hits, you want them to go a real long way.”
The Knights moved to 5-7, their most victories since six in 2016.
“We have a really group of guys,” Hadenfeldt said. “We have seven guys who have been in the lineup for three years. They’ve just worked and gotten better. We said since Day 1, hey, don’t waste opportunities. They’ve lost out on a bunch already and they’ve done a nice job of battling through that. I feel really good for them to get to extend it.”
Warren Etten had an RBI single to score Alex Smith in the third for Midland (7-9).
North Cedar will return to Alburnett for a district semifinal Wednesday against the fifth-ranked Pirates. Alburnett (16-3) scored seven runs and sent 11 batters to the plate in the first inning, handling Clinton Prince of Peace, 10-4.
Reed Stallman paced the Pirates with three hits and four RBIs. Hunter Caves had three hits with two runs and Gavin Soukup added two hits and two runs for Alburnett.
Kyle Sager had two hits and Gage Ruden had two RBIs for the Irish (1-12).
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