CEDAR RAPIDS — Riley LeGrand smiled and briefly laughed.
The Coe sophomore knew he avoided a base-running blunder when he reached second base after being caught too far off first in the final inning. His hustle kept him on base and resulted in an important victory.
LeGrand raced home on a wild pitch with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to defeat Luther, 6-5, Tuesday at Bill Quinby Field of Daniels Park, clinching the American Rivers Conference regular-season baseball title.
LeGrand was mobbed by teams after he slid safely at the plate.
“It was a crazy scene,” LeGrand said. “It was a great moment for our team.”
Luther won the nightcap, 8-3, but the Kohawks had already claimed their first regular-season league title since 2011.
“It means a lot to our school (and) our baseball program,” said Coe senior Kevin DeLaney, who had two hits and three RBIs in the opener. “This is what we strive to do every year. To accomplish this, especially the first year as the A-R-C, it’s an amazing feeling.”
Coe (29-3, 19-2 A-R-C) has had its share of tight games this season. Kohawks Coach Steve Cook said the seniors have been a key factor, serving as leaders on and off the field. The unity they have built has made an impact.
“It’s just a good group,” Cook said. “They’ve really done everything together. They stick together through everything. I think that’s why we’ve had wins like the first game, where we win tight games.”
LeGrand drew a one-out walk in the ninth. He appeared to be in danger of being picked off when he turned it into a stolen base and moved into scoring position.
“It just turned out well,” LeGrand said. “I got caught in the middle there and figured the best option was to take off toward second and luckily he threw it down to first and I was able to beat it out at second.”
Pinch-hitter Thomas Kahle was down 0-2 when the next pitch hit in front of the plate, bouncing away far enough for LeGrand to score. LeGrand said his main job was to read the pitch and anticipated it well.
“I got a good jump on it,” LeGrand said. “It got far enough away and was able to beat it.”
He advanced to third on the previous at-bat, tagging on Jordan Kaplan’s fly to right field. His effort to reach third was enough for Cook to not mention the earlier play.
“He got over to third and it proved to be huge,” Cook said. “Honestly, right before the pitch, I told him we’re getting a breaking ball in the dirt right here and it happened. We had everything working to where we were anticipating that and it worked out in our favor.”
Coe produced a three-run second, including a two-run single from DeLaney. Daniel Berger added an RBI double to score LeGrand in the third for a 4-0 lead.
Luther stormed back two in the fifth, including Trent Athmann’s RBI single. After one in the sixth, Luke Plunkett belted a two-run home run in the seventh to tie it, setting up the dramatic finish.
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Luther (19-15, 12-6) scored eight runs in the final four innings of the nightcap for the victory. Plunkett and Jake Halverson had home runs and Matt Clark and Jake Vogt had two RBIs apiece in the second game.
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