DES MOINES — Coon Rapids-Bayard coach John Waddle takes pride in his team’s ability to make the most of a poor situation.
It’s the main reason the Class 1-A No. 6 Crusaders earned a spot at the state tournament. Two key injuries and a relatively young roster didn’t stand in the way.
But Friday night in the opening round of the 1-A tournament, Waddle and the Crusaders had no answer for Martensdale-St. Marys senior starter Tanner Foster. He was on from the first pitch, striking out 16 in an 8-1 victory at Principal Park.
The win advances the No. 5 Blue Devils (34-5) to Thursday’s semifinal round and a meeting with No. 1 Mason City Newman (37-4) at 11 a.m.
Coon Rapids-Bayard closes the year at 29-7, thanks largely to the arm of Foster. The right-hander scattered three hits and walked two in the complete-game effort. Foster was shut down from pitching duties earlier in the season with a sore elbow, instead playing second base and designated hitter as he healed. He slowly started working his way back to the mound in mid-June.
He’s clearly feeling healthy again.
Friday’s triumph marked his third straight postseason win. He benefited from routinely locating his fastball, which reaches the mid- to upper-80s.
“We’ve seen that velocity this year quite a few times, but he just kind of had a way of jumping on you; it just seemed like the ball got there pretty quick,” said CRB first baseman Isaac McAlister, who had two of the three hits against Foster. “I don’t know if it’s the stadium and excitement and so many distractions, but it just seemed to get to you pretty quick, and that’s where we all struggled.”
Compounding matters was the sluggish start from Josh Esdohr, who had won each of the Crusaders’ four postseason games entering Friday. He walked six and hit a batter in 41⁄3 innings.
“(Josh) wasn’t pounding the strike zone like he had,” Waddle said. “I know he had a little fatigue, too. It was pretty hot, but it was for Foster, also.”
The Blue Devils jumped to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, but CRB responded to even the score in the top of the third. Sam Obert walked, stole second and scored on a McAlister RBI single to make it 1-1.
But it was all MSM from there. The Blue Devils took the lead for good in the third, using a Noah Catron bases-loaded walk, a Grant Crowell squeeze bunt and a CRB error to take a 4-1 lead.
“You’ve got to give our kids credit,” Waddle said. “Those guys were battlers all year long. A lot of teams thought we would maybe be a .500 baseball team this year, so there are a lot of teams sitting at home right now wondering how in the world we got down here. A lot of it is a credit to our kids.”
Coon Rapids-Bayard (29-7) .......................... 001 000 0—1 3 2
Martensdale-St. Marys (34-5) ...................... 103 022 x—8 8 2
W: Tanner Foster. L: Josh Esdohr. 2B: MSM, Trevor Dooley, Noah Catron.
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