OAKLAND, Iowa — In two of Tri-Center’s previous four games, it managed just one and three hits, respectively.
That made Wednesday’s outburst even more meaningful.
The third-seeded Trojans exploded for 12 runs in their first three innings and finished with 12 hits in a 17-7, seven-inning romp over second-seeded Underwood in a Western Iowa Conference tournament semifinal at Riverside High School.
“We’ve been struggling a little bit,’’ Tri-Center coach Max Kozeal said. “I think the kids were pressing a little bit too much at the plate. We just kept on telling them to relax. Baseball’s kind of a cruel game. It seems like when we did hit the ball hard in our previous games, we were lining out, lining out.’’
On Wednesday, those line drives found holes. The western Iowa No. 7 Trojans (14-7) will meet top-seeded, WI No. 2 Treynor (20-3) in Friday’s championship game at approximately 8 p.m. Western Iowa No. 3 Underwood (17-3) will face Logan-Magnolia (12-11) in the consolation game at 5:30.
Kozeal’s club beat the Eagles for the second time in three meetings this season, using an eight-run second inning to break it open. Fresh-man Jaxon Johnson led the way in the big inning with two doubles, including a three-run two-bagger in his second at-bat of the frame. Trevor Nelson, Trent Kozeal, Jackson Roane, Kaleb Smith and Leyton Nelson added RBIs in the inning.
It became 12-0 before Underwood put a brief scare into the Trojans. Drake Adair and Nick Ravlin had two-run doubles as the Eagles scored seven straight to close to 12-7 in the bottom of the fifth. Both players finished with two hits.
But Kyle Siebels made a nice backhanded play and throw at third to keep Underwood from doing further damage in the fifth, the first of two excellent plays at third. The senior also picked up the pitching win and finished 2 for 4 with two RBIs at the plate.
Siebels said it was nice to jump on such a familiar opponent early.
“That’s what you’ve got to do in these big games: set the tone,’’ he said.
Underwood coach Andy Vanfossan said there are generally at least one or two games a season when nothing goes right.
“They hadn’t hit the ball the last couple nights,’’ he said. “Tonight they barreled a lot of balls up. That is baseball. That’s the way it goes. The nice thing about it is you can come back tomorrow. You don’t have to dwell on it. The good teams are going to flush it and move on.
“I would consider ourselves a good team, so hopefully we can have a good practice tomorrow and get after it on Friday.’’
Johnson finished with three hits for Tri-Center, and Leyton Nelson and Brett McGee joined Siebels with two hits apiece. Max Kozeal said a variety of untimely injuries have kept the Trojans from finding a rhythm thus far.
“We haven’t found a groove,’’ he said. “That’s something we didn’t anticipate, but the kids have been resilient with that.’’
Siebels said his team is looking forward to the championship game.
“I’m excited to see what Friday has in store,’’ he said. “I just love playing Treynor. It’s always fun.’’
Tri-Center (14-7).............084 004 1—17 12 2
Underwood (17-3)............003 220 0— 7 7 5
W: Kyle Siebels. L: Blake Hall. 2B: TC, Jaxon Johnson 2, Siebels; U, Drake Adair, Nick Ravlin.
Treynor 3, Logan-Magnolia 0
OAKLAND — Junior Nate McCombs fired a three-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts to lift top-seeded Treynor past fourth-seeded Logan-Magnolia 3-0 in the second semifinal.
McCombs walked two and hit one to improve to 5-0 on the season.
Treynor opened the scoring in the first when Will Halverson walked, stole second, took third on a balk and scored on a bases-loaded hit by pitch.
In the third, Jaxon Schumacher walked, stole second and scored on Kristian Martens’ single. Martens stole second and scored on Tommy Duysen’s single to extend the Cardinals’ lead to 3-0.
Logan-Magnolia (12-11)..........000 000 0—0 3 0
Treynor (20-3)........................102 000 x—3 5 1
W: Nate McCombs. L: Trevor Wills. 2B: LM, Joel Richardson.