The game was a rollercoaster and the comeback was tedious. But that’s who the Mustangs are.
Despite not recording a hit until the third inning, failing to score until the seventh and not taking a lead until one out in the ninth, the Mustangs found a way to rally to top Larchwood (Iowa), 4-3, on Friday at Cadwell Park.
The Mustangs (17-5) advance to the second round of the Class B amateur baseball state tournament against the winner of Chamberlain vs. Milbank. The Diamonds end the season 11-8.
“Kind of a rollercoaster,” manager and the winning pitcher Deric Denning said. “A lot of our guys are young, their first time in the state tournament. Had some jitters of course, but kind of who we are. Hang around and find a way to win.”
Mount Vernon left fielder Cameron Deinert added on the comeback: “Tedious. Putting runners on and being aggressive. In the state tournament, it’s defense and pitching. We were able to take advantage of errors and timely hits.”
With Mount Vernon trailing 2-0 in the seventh and its prior 10 batters retired in order, its message in the dugout was to play loose. The message stuck as Eric Giblin and Deinert had back-to-back two-out hits to ruin Trent Roose’s shutout.
In the ninth, Deinert struck again. Chase Hetland started the rally by hitting a one-out triple to drive home Briggs Havlik to tie the game. And with two outs and Denning on first, Giblin doubled to put runners in scoring position and bring Deintert up.
Deinert delivered, driving a sharp line drive down the third-base line against reliever Mitch Peschon to bring home a pair of runs.
“He threw it in and that’s the ball I like to hit,” Deinert said. “I was really happy, excited for everyone.”
Larchwood manager Chris Underberg said he never thought about taking out Roose, who delivered 117 pitches in the loss, earlier in the game.
James Van Beek singled in a run in the bottom of the ninth. However, Luke Tiesler struck out Brent Ripperda to end the game and strand two runners, which was a common theme for the Diamonds. They left 14 runners on base.
“We hit some balls right at people,” Underberg said. “(Denning) made some good pitches when he needed to. That’s the way the game goes.”
Larchwood’s inability to record timely hits didn’t seem like it would hurt it for much of the game as Roose plowed down Mount Vernon batters. He and Denning went back-and-forth, with Roose fanning nine batters over 8.2 innings and at one point retiring 12 straight Mustangs.
“He pitched a great game,” Underberg said. “Got a little bit tired there at the end and got to him a little bit that last inning or so. … Just ran out of gas a little bit.”
While Denning’s command wavered at times -- he issued eight walks in his 170-pitch, 8.1-inning start -- and Larchwood drove a couple of balls to the fence, he used six strikeouts and a stout defense to work out of jams.
He credited catcher Jay Thaler’s game-calling from behind the plate, including Thaler throwing out two base stealers.
“A lot of fun,” Deinert said of the win. “We’ve been a great group. Not lacking any confidence, having fun, playing loose the best we can. That’s what we did the last couple of innings.”