DES MOINES - The #1 Cherokee Braves stranded a dozen base runners, including three each in the pivotal fourth and fifth innings, on the way to a heart-breaking 4-2 defeat at the hands of perennial Iowa baseball power Davenport Assumption in the Class 2A State Baseball Championships here Saturday afternoon.
"We had our chances," said a disappointed Cherokee coach Scott Koch. "We had the bases loaded two times and runners at first and third two other times and couldn't get the big hit. We usually come up with critical hits in those times, but didn't today. That's the way baseball is, I guess."
Senior Jake Kent got the win for Assumption, giving up one earned run on 10 hits and one walk, with six Ks in seven innings.
Tyler Jones led the Cherokee hitters with a 3-4 game and one RBI, while Scott Brown was 3-4, Mark Johnson 1-4 with an RBI, Kyle Ruehle 1-3, Tim Jones 1-3, and Cody Ege 1-4.
The Braves scored a run in the first ater Tyler Jones led off with a single, was sacrificed to second on a bunt by Matt Koch, and scored on Johnson's single to right field. Cherokee tallied its final run in the sixth when Brown singled, advanced to third on a fielder's choice ground ball by Matt Pitts that the Knights third baseman threw into right field, and scored on a Tyler Jones single.
Although they stroked 10 hits in the game, the Braves had trouble adjusting to the umpire's wide strike zone that, at times, was wide enough to warrant a light bar and pilot car. A couple college coaches watching behind home plate noted that several pitches were called strikes against both teams that were at least a foot off the plate.
The Braves end their magical season with a 30-2 record, after winning the State Championship last year with a 5-4 victory over Assumption and posting a 31-2 mark.
The Braves, in their fourth consectutive state appearance and fifth in six years, lose five quality seniors to graduation in Ruehle, Johnson, Tim Jones, Brown, and Dillon Moye.