DEWITT — When the West Branch baseball team faces a crucial offensive situation, having junior Trey Eagle up to bat usually means good results.
Tuesday night, Eagle provided the Bears with their biggest result in years.
“I had popped up a few times in this game,” Eagle said after his two-out, two-strike single drove in the tying and winning runs as West Branch shocked Camanche, 3-2 in nine innings, in a Class 2A substate final at DeWitt Central High School. “Really just looking to put a line drive on the ball, give Brady (Lukavsky) a chance to score from second. That is what happened.”
The victory delivers West Branch (20-7) to the state tournament for just the third time in school history and the first since 2012. The Bears will play a 2A state quarterfinal game Monday at Principal Park in Des Moines.
“It means so much to me,” first-year West Branch Coach Andy Lapel said. “One word I think of is, ‘validation.’ … I am going to cry. It just means more so obviously for the team, but for those four seniors (Ted Bridges, Jaden Hierseman, Mitchell Knoop, Lukavsky) that have given their everything for this program. … I didn’t want to be done and I knew that they didn’t want to be done.”
The game bore no resemblance to the June 20 meeting at West Branch, which was won in convincing fashion by the Bears, 10-0, in five innings. This time, runs were much harder to come by for both teams.
West Branch opened the scoring in the bottom of the fourth inning with a sacrifice fly from junior Pete Espensen, his team-high 35th run batted in this season. Camanche tied the game in the next frame when Mike Delzell doubled home a run off Eagle.
“They were just a lot more patient this time,” said Eagle, who struck out eight but walked five in 5 2/3 innings on the mound. “They saw the ball really well. They still out-hit us, even with that, 6-4, but all credit to the guys for staying with it, coming back, getting that win, getting to state.”
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Bridges (3-0) relieved Eagle on the mound with two outs in fifth inning and held Camanche (18-13) scoreless until the top of the ninth when Kyle DeWeerdt broke the 1-1 stalemate with an RBI single.
Down to their last out, the Bears rallied. Tanner Lukavsky reached base on an error and both he and Brady Lukavsky were safe on an attempted force out at second base. After a walk to Espensen loaded the bases, Eagle delivered.
“He is a big hitter,” Bridges said. “He came through. A big hit for him.”
CLASS 2A SUBSTATE FINAL
West Branch 3, Camanche 2
Camanche 000 010 001—2
West Branch 000 100 002—3
Brayden Lodge, Mason McManus (5) and Mason Byrns. Trey Eagle, Ted Bridges (5) and Brady Lukavsky. W — Bridges (3-0); L — McManus (3-1).
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