DES MOINES - A four-run fifth inning, keyed by savvy Kyle Ruehle's two-run single, propelled the #1 Cherokee Braves to a 6-2 Class 2A semifinal victory over Solon at the Iowa State Baseball Championships here on July 24th.
The game was decided in the fifth, as the two teams were tied at 2-2 when Solon ace Logan Potter walked Cherokee's first three batters - Tyler Jones, Matt Koch, and Mark Johnson. After the Braves' clean-up hitter Cody Ege popped up to shortstop, Ruehle came through for the second state tourney game in a row with a two-run single that plated Jones and Koch.
Designated hitter Tim Jones then picked up Johnson with a long sacrifice fly, and a bad throw to first on speedy Kyle Schuett's ground ball to third scored Ruehle for the 6-2 victory, after Ege shut down the Solon attack over the final two innings.
Ege was huge on the mound against an explosive young Solon club that starts four freshmen at key positions. He finished allowing two runs on five scattered hits and one walk, with 10 impressive strikeouts.
The Braves managed four earned runs on six hits and two walks, with five Ks in 4 2/3 innings against Potter. Freshman relliever Brandon Shulista, one of those promising Spartan freshmen, gave up one hit with one K in 1 1/3 innings.
"Cody did a heckuva job and worked himself out of a couple tough jams with some big strikeouts when we needed them," said Cherokee coach Scott Koch.
Leading hitters for the Braves were Ruehle 2-3 with two RBI, Schuett 3-3 with a triple and RBI, Tyler Jones 1-3, and Scott Brown 1-3.
The win set up a 2A State Championship rematch on July 26 featuring Assumption and Cherokee (30-1), which beat the 34-8 Davenport squad 5-4 in last year's State Championship game.
"Cherokee had our respect before the game and even more so now," said Solon coach Keith McSweeney. "Their pitcher did a nice job and kept the ball down.
"Cherokee has an outstanding team, Assumption has a great team, and the championship game should be a dandy."