The #3 Cherokee Braves won three of four recent games, including ringing up a 2-1 record at last weekend's Carroll Kuemper Invitational, losing 7-1 to second-ranked Class 3A Harlan Sunday night in the Championship game.
Saving their top two hurlers (Koch and Cody Ege) for Lakes Conference play, the Braves got impressive pitching wins Saturday from Phillip Schuluenburg in the win over Le Mars, and from, Gordy Gill, Kyle Schuck, and Tyler Jones in the win over Kuemper in the tourney semifinals. Matt Pitts took the loss against Harlan Sunday night.
Koch was superb in the narrow victory over the Tornadoes Friday night, allowing five scattered hits, no walks, and striking out 11 in seven innings of work.
The Braves had trouble solving the slow curves of Storm Lake pitcher Ben Seaman, who gave up one run on seven hits and two walks, with two strikeouts and one hit batter in seven innings.
"It was a very well-played game. Both pitchers threw a very nice game," said Cherokee coach Scott Koch."
Schulenburg gave up two earned runs on four hits and three walks in the tourney win over Le Mars. He struck out one in five innings of work.
Jones was 4-4 with a double and home run and two RBI to lead the Braves, while Koch was 3-3 with a double and home run and two RBI, Schulenburg 3-3 with a double and RBI, Schuck 1-3 with a double and RBI, Ege 2-4 with two doubles, Pitts 2-2 and an RBI, Tony Hunt 1-3 with an RBI, and Jakob Hummel 1-4.
"We did a nice job of putting runs on the board. Phillip did what he needed to do - throw strikes," said coach Koch.
Gill got the win over Kuemper, allowing four runs on six hits and two walks, with one K in three innings. Schuck pitched two innings and gave up two hits and two walks, with two Ks. Jones pitched one inning and allowed one hit.
Schulenburg was 2-3 with two RBI, Hummel 2-2 with a double and two RBI, Schuett 2-3, and Koch 1-3.
"It was a great team effort. The pitchers did what we needed them to do," said coach Koch.
Pitts gave up seven runs in the first two innings before settling down and shutting out Harlan the rest of the way (six innings). He allowed seven hits, four walks, and struck out five.
Schuck smacked a home run for the Braves' lone run in the sixth inning. PItts, Koch, Ege, Schulenburg, and Zac Woods all singled for Cherokee.
"I was very proud of the team's effort after getting behind the #2 3A team in the state," said coach Koch. "Matt Pitts threw four shut-out innings to finish the game. We hit the ball hard, but they made some very nice plays.
"We won six out of seven games in a seven-day period. I am very proud of their effort."
The 18-2 Braves play at dangerous Estherville-LC tonight, and at Le Mars Thursday night in more Lakes Conference action.