By Paul Downer
By Paul Downer
After a nine-inning, 1-0 win over Jordan in the first round of subsection playoffs, the Central baseball team played an equally tense subsection semifinal match against Belle Plaine on May 29 but came out on the wrong end of another 1-0 game.
The loss ended Central’s season, giving the Raiders a 12-9 overall record for the year.
"I was really pleased with how we played the last two games. We could be [advancing], but that’s how it goes. The ball fell their way and not ours, and we got beat," said Central head coach Jon Wroge. "That’s not taking anything away from Belle Plaine, because we didn’t beat them all year. They had our number, and we just couldn’t get by them. It’s frustrating in a way, but we played well. We didn’t give it away."
The third-seeded Raiders and second-seeded Tigers played to a 0-0 tie through the first 6.5 innings with both pitchers in full control.
In the bottom of the seventh, however, the Tigers finally managed to put a few at-bats together against Central’s Kyle Brazil. A bloop hit fell just beyond the reach of a diving Casey Clemsensen, Central’s second baseman. A pair of groundouts followed that advanced the runner to third, and with two outs Belle Plaine’s last batter knocked a 2-2 fastball up the middle for a walk-off win.
"Friday [against Jordan] we were jumping up and down, and Tuesday Belle Plaine is jumping up and down," said Wroge. "You couldn’t ask for two better high school games. The pitchers threw strikes and attacked the strike zone, which is fun. That’s good baseball. The Belle Plaine game, there were no errors. It was awesome. They won and we didn’t."
Wroge praised the performance of Brazil, who struck out 10 batters, walked two and allowed seven hits over seven innings.
"Kyle Brazil threw how I thought Kyle Brazil would throw all year," he said, referring to Brazil’s absence from the mound due to a nagging arm injury for most of the season. "It’s bittersweet because I know he’s coming back next year and I have that to look forward to, but I know he had that in him all year."
The Raiders managed just four hits at the plate, with Tim Swanson collecting two and Isaac Hormann and Robin Hatterschide each chipping in a single.
"Defensively we played well. Offensively, we just didn’t hit. That happens when you get to the playoffs," said Wroge. "It gets harder and harder to score runs because every at-bat gets magnified and every pitch gets bigger. Their guy just kept us off balance. He throws sidearm and we didn’t hit him in three games this year.
"It’s hard to be frustrated with that game, though. We left it all out on the field."
Central 1, Jordan 0
The Raiders mustered just one run in their subsection opener against Jordan last Friday, May 23, but pitcher Tim Willems made sure that run held up.
Central and Jordan played to a 0-0 stalemate through 8.5 innings before Willems came to bat for Central in the bottom of the ninth inning and led off with a double. An attempt to bunt Willems to third ended unsuccessfully when the ball was popped up, and Swanson came to the plate with one out.
Swanson quickly fell into an 0-2 hole, but managed to foul off a number of close pitches and work the count full. With Willems leading off second, Swanson then cracked a line drive up the middle that was too hot for the pitcher to glove cleanly. The shortstop fielded the deflection but had to hurry his throw, which was low and bounced past the first baseman, allowing Willems to score the game’s only run.
That pair of clutch performances by Central seniors helped the third-seeded Raiders dispatch No. 6 Jordan and move on to the subsection semifinals at No. 2 Belle Plaine.
"Great game on Friday night," said Central head coach Jon Wroge. "Tim Willems threw a complete game four-hitter. He walked two and struck out four. He really stepped up when a senior has too."
Wroge also noted that the Raiders played a great defensive game, performing flawlessly in the field.