Cherokee routs Kuemper for 3rd straight state trip
CARROLL - The top-ranked Cherokee Braves dismissed all doubters here on July 17th with a convincing 12-3 Class 2A Substate victory over one very good Carroll Kuemper squad playing in its home lair.
With the big win, the 28-2 Braves qualified for the 2007 Iowa State Baseball Championships at Principal Park in Des Moines beginning July 20th. The Braves - the 2A field's top seed and making the trip to state for the third consecutive year - open the tourney with a noon game on the 20th against 8-seed Bondurant-Farrar (16-15-1), which beat North Polk 8-4 in their 2A Substate final. The Bluejays play in the Heart of Iowa-North Conference.
But the story so far was the Braves impressive win over the Kuemper Knights here Tuesday night, with Cherokee scoring at least once in every inning for the last two games.
Senior ace Cory Ege got the hard-earned pitching win against 6th-ranked Kuemper (29-7), allowing three earned runs on eight scattered hits and one walk, with 10 strikeouts in six innings of work. He is a sparkling 9-0 this season. Matt Koch relieved Ege in the seventh and gave up a single and registered one strikeout.
Kuemper ace Joe Stipe, who was 12-0 this season as the Knights stormed to the title of the rugged Hawkeye Conference, was pounded by the Braves for 10 runs on 10 hits. He gave up two walks and struck out five in 4 2/3 innings of work before Cherokee knocked him out of the game. Austin Wittrock relieved Stipe and gave up two runs on three hits, with one K in 1 1/3 innings.
The lively Cherokee bats stayed true this night. Leading hitters for the Braves were Tyler Jones 3-4 with an RBI and run scored, Kyle Schuett 2-3 with a triple and three runs scored, Cory Ege 2-4 with an RBI and two runs scored, Mark Johnson 2-4 with two RBI and a double and run scored, Kyle Ruehle 1-3 with a double and two runs scored, Cody Ege 1-3 with an RBI and run scored, Tim Jones 1-4 with an RBI and run scored, and Michael Boothby 1-2 with two RBI and run scored.
Schuett's triple in the second inning, which he punctuated by stealing home on Cody Ege's suicide squeeze bunt attempt the Kuemper catcher mishandled, lit the Braves fire early. Then, after the Knights fought back to tie it a 3-3 after three with a three-run third inning, the Braves came right back with two more runs inthe bottom of the third to regain the momentum. Michael Boothby then slammed the door on the dangerous Knights with a big two-run double in Cherokee's three-run fifth that all but iced it.
In a radio interview after the game, veteran Kuemper coach Jerry Spieler said, "Nobody has hit Joe Stipe like Cherokee did. When you play the quality teams, they put the ball in play. But Cherokee hit Joe's pitches like nobody else has all year. They were patient and took his good pitches to the opposite field. We were all kind of shocked, but that's what the good teams can do."
Besides Schuett's and Boothby's critical hits, Cherokee coach Scott Koch said his team's ability to come back with two runs in the bottom of the third inning, after Kuemper had tied the game at 3-3 in the top, was "really big for us.
"We took that lead back and regained some momentum, and then Cory settled down and pretty much controlled them the rest of the way," said Koch. "We're happy with the kids and looking forward to the state tournament. It's a good reward for all the hard work the guys have put in."
The Braves will be in the first base dugout at Principal Park. Tickets are $8.