The Cherokee Braves, Iowa's top-ranked Class 2A baseball team, added two more victims to the file this week, whitewashing Spirit Lake 7-0 here on June 2nd in Lakes Conference action, and then out-slugging previously undefeated and eighth-ranked (Class 3A) Denison-Schleswig 12-8 in Denison the following evening.
Cody Ege led the Braves past the Indians here Monday night, firing a three-hit shutout, walking two, and striking out nine in a seven-inning masterpiece.
Starter Brad Engle got the pitching loss for Spirit Lake, allowing two runs on two walks in one inning of work.
"Cody pitched a great game and stayed in control all the way," said Cherokee coach Scott Koch. "Our bats started to come alive. We haven't been real consistent at the plate so far this season."
At Denison-Schleswig, the Braves showed some of the grit they will need to achieve this season as defending 2A State champs, overcoming a 6-2 deficit after the first inning with a five-run outburst in the second frame.
This time, Ege led the Braves with his bat, blasting two two-run home runs to finish with four RBI on the night.
Other leading hitters were Tyler Jones 4-5 with a double and RBI, Johnson 3-5 with four RBI of his own, Matt Koch 3-3 with a double, Philip Schulenberg 1-2, and Tim Jones 1-3.
Although knocked about, Cherokee's Kyle Ruehle hung in to get the pitching win, allowing eight runs on 10 hits and three walks, with four strikeouts in six innings. The Monarchs jumped on him with six runs in the first inning.
Matt Koch got the save for the Braves, giving up no runs on three hits, no walks, and two Ks in one inning of work.
Brandon Scherff took the mound at the start for the Monarchs, allowing seven runs on eight hits and one walk, with two Ks in three innings of work. The game was tied at 7-7 when he was relieved by Kerry Finerman, who took the loss, allowing five runs on four hits and five walks, with one K in 3 1/3 innings.
"I was proud of how we hung in there after trailing 6-2 after just one inning," said coach Koch. "Then we answered with five runs in the second that got us back on track.
"Kyle didn't have his stuff tonight, but he stayed in there and figured out a way to get it done. He handled it and found a way."
The #1 Braves are now 8-1.
With pivotal Lakes Conference games bracketing the weekend (at Emmetsburg Monday) and sixth-rated (3A) Storm Lake coming to town Wednesday, Koch said he will pitch by committee at Rock Rapids to save his regular starters for conference play.
To their credit, the Braves are deep at pitching, with several talented underclassmen just waiting their chance to produce and climb the ladder.