TREYNOR, Iowa — It took nine innings, and a host of close plays, but Underwood was able to avenge last year’s season-ending loss to Treynor with a 6-5 District 15 baseball victory on Saturday night.
The top of the ninth inning started innocently enough as Underwood grounded out to third base and hit a check-swing pop-up to first base. Blake Hall then hit a pop fly that was misplayed by senior center fielder Kyle Christensen, keeping the inning alive.
That brought sophomore Tyler Boothby to the plate. Boothby, who was 0 for 3 before the at-bat, drove a Drew Petersen pitch to deep left-center field. Christensen gave chase only to see the ball bounce off his glove, and Hall sprinted all the way home for the go-ahead run.
Boothby later scored on an infield single by Zach Teten to give the Eagles a two-run cushion.
But the Cardinals wouldn’t go away quietly.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, eighth-grader Jaxon Schumacher singled to center. Petersen followed with a groundout to second, leaving Underwood one out from the win. Kristian Martens drew a walk on a close 3-2 pitch to bring senior Brenden Dingus to the plate.
Dingus hit a line drive single to center, scoring Schumacher to bring the Cardinals within 6-5. Underwood center fielder Kyler Rodenburg made a throw to the plate, and on the throw home, Martens took an aggressive turn around second base. Seeing the wide turn, Underwood catcher Blake Hall fired behind Martens, picking him off second base to end the game.
“I got a little bit of a late jump, way later than I would have wanted. But my mindset was if I’m going to throw it, I’m going to throw it as hard as I can, and it’s going to get somewhere,” Rodenburg said of his throw home. “Blake made a great play.”
After a shaky start to the game — three errors in the first two innings — the Underwood defense made a host of stellar plays late. An unassisted double play by shortstop Nick Ravlin and a putout by Coby Fink on a tricky hop ended the eighth, and then Hall’s throw in the ninth put the game away.
“We were able to make one more play than they did,” Underwood coach Andy Vanfossan said.
“It was a back-and-forth game,” Treynor coach Bob Mantell added. “It was a well-played game between two teams, and they just made more plays that we did.”
Boothby had the drive that put the Eagles ahead for good, but Rodenburg also contributed three singles and two RBIs. Freshman Jake Reimer had a clutch two-out single in the sixth to tie the game at 4-4.
“Jake’s funny because there will be times when he’ll just look lost,” Vanfossan said. “I think it was the first pitch he saw and he drove it back up the middle, and he’s done that several times this year.”
Teten entered in relief and pitched six solid innings to earn the win, giving up no runs and five hits while striking out four.
“I just kept trying to pump some strikes, let the defense work for me,” Teten said. “My mind just goes to that double play in the eighth that they made. That was a great play.”
Treynor ends its season at 27-11. The game also was the final contest for Mantell after 14 seasons as coach.
“It’s been a labor of love,” Mantell said. “For me, it’s a real bittersweet thing. I feel a ton of remorse leaving the program, because it’s like leaving a family member.”
Underwood (25-4) will play Hinton at Harlan on Tuesday with a trip to the state tournament on the line. With that game just a few days away, what is Vanfossan’s message for his team?
“Practice at 6 o’clock, we’ll see you tomorrow,” he said with a chuckle. “They know. You don’t want to make a big deal about it.”
Underwood (25-4)..... 200 101 002—6 10 3
At Treynor (27-11).... 101 200 001—5 8 1
W: Zach Teten. L: Drew Petersen.