WASHINGTON, Iowa — Feeling like a season’s worth of hard work is washed away in one game is an unfortunate reality for teams during postseason play.
The Wilton Beavers shouldn’t feel like the hard work has been washed away, nor should they feel like one game defines their season. But Central Lee certainly had Wilton’s number on Tuesday night in Washington during the Class 2A substate clash.
Central Lee will now go on to compete at the state tournament after an eye-opening 14-0 win over Wilton, the team that has been ranked No. 1 in Class 2A since the beginning of the season.
“(Our) message was to just raise the bar,” Central Lee head coach Shane Weirather said. “We got here last year and lost … this year we got to state, it was the same old stuff, just keep playing our brand of baseball and these kids have worked extremely hard.”
The Hawks had to wait until Monday night to earn their place in this game because they only made it through a little over four innings before bad weather struck during their district game against Davis County last Saturday.
Given how things ended Tuesday night, the start of the substate game for Wilton was the polar opposite of how the rest of the game would go.
“Today was their day,” Wilton head coach Jake Souhrada said, “it wasn’t ours.”
To start things, Beaver pitcher Jared Townsend sailed through the first inning. He struck out one Hawk hitter and forced two others to ground out back to the mound. A pitcher, catcher and first baseman were all the Beavers needed for their first three outs.
Wilton (24-5) looked sharp early. Chantz Stevens, the Beavers’ second hitter of the game, singled with one out in the bottom of the first. That was followed by a Collin McCrabb walk and a Townsend base hit to load the bases. A pop-out to the Central Lee catcher in foul territory and a grounder to the shortstop ended the Beaver threat in the first, however.
“Getting out of the inning in the first was huge,” Weirather said, “I was proud of our kids.
“That’s a tremendous pitcher (Townsend) and we just kept the pressure on him.”
Once the second started, Central Lee could do no wrong. After the Hawk leadoff hitter was retired to start the second inning, three Central Lee (21-2) hitters got on with a walk, single and double. The Alex Sandoval double drove in the first two that reached and Sandoval was eventually driven in by teammate Trent Stutes, who was driven in by Tyler Hopp. After two, the score stood at 4-0.
Hawk pitcher Waylon Weirather made sure a comeback wasn’t in the cards. Weirather had Wilton hitters guessing all night, executing an especially effective curveball throughout the game.
The fourth inning brought Central Lee a little bit of everything. Beaver pitchers — there were three over the course of the inning — had trouble finding the strike zone, hit balls were finding gaps and Wilton suffered a few self-imposed errors that the Hawks were all too willing to take advantage of.
By the end of the Hawks’ half of the fourth, they amassed a 14-0 lead. They scored 10 runs on three hits, drew five walks and saw the Beavers commit four errors.
“We walked people and didn’t make plays,” said Souhrada, “we couldn’t get over the hump, couldn’t make plays when we needed to (and) it snowballed.”
The inning seemingly left Wilton stunned. Every hitter in the Central Lee lineup reached base in the fourth. All but one scored.
Getting behind so big left Wilton little time to catch up as the 10-run rule went into effect. But the Beaver bats couldn’t get out of their slump. After the big Central Lee inning, Wilton only had two other baserunners. One on a Clayton Cooling walk in the fourth and the other a Cory Anderson single to start the fifth.
“I told these (seniors) … three-time conference champs, four-time district champs, went to the state tournament last year,” Souhrada said, “today doesn’t define their career(s) by any means, they had great careers.”