One one-loss ranked team down. One more to go.
The Eddyville-Blakesburg Rockets knew a run to the Class 2A, District 10 title might require a couple of top-10 upsets. That became a certainty for E-B before they took the field for the district semifinal contest with No. 6 Van Buren.
After watching top-ranked Davis County improve to 39-1 with a 12-1 win over Mid-Prairie, E-B took care of the first half of their required two upsets needed to earn a district title. The Rockets halted a 22-game winning streak by sixth-ranked Van Buren, striking early and often against undefeated senior hurler Blake Scott to score the first five runs of the night.
The Rockets held off a fifth-inning rally by the Warriors and pulled away with a pair in the sixth, handing Van Buren just their second loss of the season. The 7-3 district semifinal win sets up E-B’s fifth meeting of the season with South Central Conference rival Davis County Saturday night, as the Rockets will look to knock off another highly-rated postseason foe.
“That would be kind of a Cinderella ending to our season,” E-B head baseball coach Rod Ashman said. “We’ve got three days to work hard and get prepared for Saturday’s game.”
It was a complete team effort at the plate that led the Rockets to their second straight postseason win. Six different batters came up with a hit for the Rockets, all six of whom parlayed those hits into run production as E-B put runners on base in five of six innings at the plate.
Ashman credits E-B’s 23-0 win over Moravia in late June at Principal Park with sparking the late-season winning streak for the Rockets that reached nine on Tuesday night. If they get two more wins, the Rockets will be making a return to the home of the I-Cubs to play in the Class 2A state baseball tournament.
“We put the ball in play like we have for the past couple of weeks, which really started in that game in Des Moines,” Ashman said. “We’ve been hitting the ball really well up and down the lineup since then.”
“We were just ready to play as soon as we stepped on the field,” Tyler Archer added.
Archer was again a catalyst for the Rockets, as the senior designated hitter got E-B on the board in the opening inning with a one-out RBI double. Archer finished the night with three hits and three RBI after a two-hit, two-RBI effort Saturday against Albia.
“We step in there with a two-strike approach every time where we’re just trying to put the ball in play,” Archer said. “Everybody’s really crushing the ball right now.”
The loss was a disappointing end to another fantastic season for Van Buren and head coach Chad Scott. E-B became the first team other then Davis County to beat the Warriors since the 2010 regular season.
“We’ve been lucky the past few years. I think we’re really turning the program around,” Scott said. “The one thing we try to do is come out, compete and get better with every game. That’s all I can ask from this team. You can’t win every game and these guys understand that.”
E-B’s biggest inning came in the third, when putting the ball in play led to several defensive miscues by the Warriors. Four fielding errors by Van Buren opened the door to a three-run inning that put E-B ahead 4-0.
“Our defense was kind of sketchy in the first few innings, but you have to give them credit for coming out right away and putting the bat on the ball,” Scott said. “You’d love to have a few plays back, but you can’t do that in baseball.”
After knocking out Scott, E-B’s Lane Wells greeted relief pitcher Garrett Saunders with his third home run of the season to put the Rockets up 5-0. Van Buren then knocked out Rocket starter Christian Bambrook by scoring three runs in the fifth and putting the tying run at second with two outs before relief pitcher Craig Larkin forced a Robby Laughlin groundout to end the rally one hit short of evening the score.
“I give our guys a lot of credit. They never quit,” Scott said.
E-B doubled its 5-3 lead in the sixth with a two-run rally that was started by the Rockets’ former lead-off hitter. Tanner Scott, now batting in the number nine spot, added two more postseason hits against Van Buren after a two-hit effort Saturday against Albia and came around on Archer’s two-RBI single in the sixth.
“I actually wasn’t doing very well in that lead-off spot because I got too nervous. There was just too much pressure,” Scott said. “Coach put me in that number nine spot and it’s been a great fit for me ever since.”
“There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be in that spot in the lineup,” Ashman said of senior second basemen. “It’s all about where you feel comfortable to contribute.”
Mitchell Countryman led No. 6 Van Buren with two hits, including a double, and a run scored. Saunders and Ty Smith each had two hits with Smith driving in a run and scoring once for the 26-2 Warriors.
CLASS 2A, DISTRICT 10 SEMIFINALS
Eddyville-Blakesburg 7, No. 6 Van Buren 3
V.B. 000 030 0 — 3 8 4
E-B 103 102 x — 7 10 1
Van Buren battery — Blake Scott (L, 7-1) (3IP, 5H, 4R, ER, K) and Garrett Saunders (3IP, 5H, 3R, 3ER, 3K, 3BB), Mitchell Bartholomew catching.
2B — Mitchell Countryman.
Hits — Countyman 2-3, Saunders 2-4, Ty Smith 2-4, Jacob Wolf 1-2, Colin Weaver 1-3.
RBI — Scott, Smith.
Runs — Countryman, Smith, Wolf.
Eddyville-Blakesburg battery — Christian Bambrook (W, 7-2) (4 2/3IP, 7H, 3R, 3ER, 2K, 2BB, HBP) and Craig Larkin (S, 2) (2 1/3IP, H, 4K), Brett Roberts catching.
2B — Tyler Archer.
HR — Lane Wells.
Hits — T. Archer 3-3, Scott 2-3, Br. Roberts 2-4, Trevor Swartz 1-2, Larkin 1-3, Wells 1-3.
RBI — T. Archer 3, Larkin, Wells.
Runs — Br. Roberts 3, T. Archer, Scott, Swartz, Wells.
One one-loss ranked team down. One more to go.
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