Cherokee first baseman Cody Ege shows the umpire the ball after easily tagging out a Spirit Lake base runner on a pick-off throw from catcher Tyler Jones. The umpire called the runner safe to the chagrin of the Braves and hundreds of their fans here Saturday night. Photo by Paul Struck
2-1 District Final win has Braves 1 game from State
It wasn't pretty and most of the hits from both teams were infield grounders of various speeds and depth, but the fourth-ranked Cherokee Braves found what it took to claim a 2-1 Class 2A District Final baseball game from Lakes Conference foe Spirit Lake here on Saturday night.
The win set up a huge Substate encounter for the Braves Tuesday night against 25-3 Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley in Sioux Center, with the winner advancing to State.
Cherokee shortstop Matt Pitts breaks for a possible pick-off throw from pitcher Matt Koch on a Spirit Lake base runner at second base during the Braves District win here Saturday night. Photo by Paul Struck
Cherokee's senior fireballer Matt Koch got the tense pitching win for Cherokee, allowing one earned run on three scattered hits and three walks, while striking out eight in seven innings of work.
Spirit Lake ace Ethan Carlson had his stuff working throughout, stifling the Braves hitting attack on just three hits and four walks (one intentional), whild giving up two earned runs, one hit batter, and striking out three in seven innings.
Cherokee scored the two winning runs in the sixth inning, after trailing 1-0 when the visiting Indians tallied a run in the fourth on a dying ground ball from Carlson between first base and the pitcher's mound that Koch was unable to reach in time to make a play at first, allowing the runner on third base to score.
Cherokee's Kyle Schuett squares around on a bunt attempt during the Braves exciting 2-1 District Final win over Spirit Lake in Cherokee Saturday night. Photo by Paul Struck
The Braves answered in the sixth when Tyler Jones led off with a single to deep short that he legged out. Kyle Schuett then popped a bloop single to right field and Spirit Lake intentionally walked Koch to load the bases and bring clean-up hitter Cody Ege to the plate with the bases loaded and no outs. Carlson then hit Ege in the foot (it is assumed unintentionally) with his first pitch to force in Jones to tie it, and then Matt Pitts flew out to right field to allow Schuett to score the winning run on a sacrifice fly.
Jones, Schuett, and Ege had the lone hits for the Braves, although Koch and Jakob Hummel each slashed hot line drives that were caught by the tough Indian defense. Jones and Schuett each tallied a hit and run scored, and Ege had a hit and an RBI.
"We found a way to win, even though we did not hit the ball very well tonight," said Cherokee coach Scott Koch.
Cherokee catcher Tyler Jones visits with pitcher Matt Koch in this conference on the mound during the Braves tense 2-1 District Final victory here Saturday night. Photo by Paul Struck
Cherokee has defeated Spirit Lake three times this season by 4-1 in Cherokee, 15-3 at Spirit Lake, and Saturday's narrow 2-1 escape.
The Class 2A State Baseball Championships begin Monday at Principal Park in Des Moines.