DYERSVILLE — John Fogerty’s classic “Centerfield” boomed from loudspeakers as former players of late Dyersville Beckman Coach Tom Jenk Jr. formed a wall across the infield that nearly started at one baseline and ended at the other.
They faced home plate as Beckman Athletics Director Todd Troutman presented Jenk’s wife, Pam, his daughter, Brooke, and his sister, Lisa Milbert, with a Blazers jersey. They returned it to be displayed at the high school he spent more than four decades as a teacher and coach.
Jude Milbert, who was the pitcher for Jenk’s first of 1,088 victories, hit for Blazer all-stater and current assistant Conner Klostermann with the first pitch, kick-starting an emotional night.
Beckman officially retired Jenk’s No. 11 before its top-10 matchup with rival Cascade Friday night at Commercial Club Park. The Class 2A top-ranked Cougars came away with a 12-4 victory over the No. 7 Blazers.
Jenk coached 42 years, winning five state titles and guiding the Blazers to 12 state finals and 17 state tournament appearances. He died in October after a battle with Stage 4 Glioblastoma, watching the Blazers win the 2017 state title from a suite as co-head coach with longtime friend and assistant Fred Martin, who is the current head coach.
“It was pretty awesome for me to see all those old guys,” said Klostermann, who was the pitcher for Jenk’s 1,000th victory. “It was cool to get together and honor Coach Jenk before the game. Those are memories you won’t forget.
“It’s always (emotional) when it comes to T.J. It’s a tough scenario all-around for everyone.”
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Cascade Coach Roamn Hummel shares a mutual respect with the Beckman program and that applied to his relationship with Jenk. He wasn’t worried about playing spoiler and just wanted his team to focus on themselves and what they need to do to win big games.
“I thought maybe the moment would be a little bit bigger for us,” Hummel said. “We haven’t had that in the season. They had a lot of fans here, retiring Jenk’s number and things like that, I thought our guys might be a little bit intimidated by some of the things going on here but they weren’t and that was really good to see.”
Cascade (18-0) used a balanced offensive attack, pounding 12 hits from eight different batters. Seven Cougars had RBIs.
“It’s something we’ve been fortunate to have all year long,” Hummel said. “This was a game our guys were locked in and ready to play. It looked to me when we were at the plate there was a lot of confidence in guys’ eyes and that’s something I’ve noticed throughout the year this year."
The Cougars pounced for six runs in the top of the third, finding a way to perfectly place five hits. Gannon O’Brien provided an RBI double that sparked Cascade and scored on Blake Simon’s base hit. Ryley Reed added a two-run single to capping the rally.
Cascade erupted for four more in the fifth, receiving a leadoff home run by Logan Otting and an RBI single by pinch-hitter John Gradient. Reed, who led the Cougars with three RBIs, executed a suicide squeeze to score Simon. Reed, Simon, Otting and Wil Roling had two hits apiece for Cascade. Otting had two RBIs with a run-scoring triple in the two-run sixth.
“We’ve been swinging it pretty well lately,” said O’Brien, who got the win to improve to 4-0. “We did it pretty well (Friday) night. We have to continue that.
“We have to compete a little better on the mound and clean up defensively a little bit.”
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Beckman (13-8) squandered early chances, leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of the first and a one-out walk at first base in the second. The Blazers stranded 10 runners, going 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
“We had some mental mistakes and we hit the ball pretty good, too,” Martin said. “We left a lot of guys on base. Right off the bat, which hurt. You can’t do that against a really good team.”
Beckman was led by the bottom third of the order. Seamus O’Connor, C.J. McDermott and Nick Offerman had four of the team’s six hits and three RBIs. McDermott smacked a pair of doubles, including one in the two-run fourth that pulled Beckman within 6-3. Offerman followed with a two-run single that scored O’Connor and McDermott.
McDermott’s double in the sixth scored O’Connor.
“He was on the ball,” Martin said of McDermott. “He hit the ball well.”
Martin was concerned with the well-being of all-stater Jackson Bennett. He was involved in a collision in left field and left the game. He stayed for a short time before leaving to get X-rays. Bennett is Beckman’s top pitcher.
“I want to make sure Jackson is fine,” Martin said. “It wasn’t his knee. It was down farther. Hopefully, he is all right.”
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