ALLEMAN – As much as Collins-Maxwell/Baxter benefitted from its most productive offensive game of the year against Clarke, it was a run the Raiders didn’t score in the first inning that sparked a much-needed sense of urgency for the team.
CMB walloped Clarke, 15-5 in six innings in a Class 2A District 14 playoff game Saturday night, giving the Raiders their first playoff win since the current seniors were in middle school.
After Clarke, the bottom seed in the bracket, scored three runs in the top of the first, CMB had it's response stunted by a controversial double play. With no outs and the bases loaded, CMB's Seth Balke hit a hard grounder to second baseman Devin Wills, who threw to second for the force play. Shortstop Gable Reece then threw home where CMB's Hunter McWhirter was ruled out despite the freshman appearing to slide in safely without a tag being made. Raider head coach Max Seeman argued the call to no avail.
“I think it did kind of fired us up in the sense of getting us ready, getting us motivated,” CMB senior Zach Samson said. “We realized this team is here to play [and] we need to be here, too.”
Following two more runs from Clarke in the second inning, which was propelled by a steal of second base with two outs that Seeman also argued, CMB answered in a big way. The Raiders sent 15 batters to the plate in the third inning and scored nine runs with two outs.
CMB’s bottom third of the order proved as important as any hitter in the inning. Spencer Gauch hustled down the line on a grounder that should’ve produced the third out but reached safely due to an error. Jacob Stratton and Tucker Maxwell followed in the next two at-bats by fouling off pitches and drawing full-count walks after both batters had two strikes against them.
Those at-bats brought the Raiders' top of the order back to the plate, allowing Brady Stover, McWhirter and Samson to drive in runs.
“I definitely like the lower guys in the order to take some pitches because, I mean, we’re not a spectacular hitting team,” Seeman said. “Either you jump on something early in the count or you take until you get a late count so you give yourself a chance to get on base and that’s what happened that inning. Everything was clicking offensively that inning.”
CMB’s starting pitcher Stover, who was noticeably frustrated by a few calls in the opening innings, settled down and cruised from the third inning on. He retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced. Stover struck out 11 and didn’t allow a hit after Clarke scored its fifth run of the game in the second inning.
“I had a good talk with Brady after the second and just said, hey, that’s all they’re scoring. You’re going to get into a rhythm,” Seeman said. “Just tried to make him believe in himself a little more.
“I just told him we can’t leave it in the hands of the officials. We’re playing almost 11 guys it seems like these first couple innings. He just knew he had to pump up and play baseball. There were a couple times he struck kids out and I’ve never seen him throw that hard before.”
With the win, CMB advances to play Des Moines Christian Tuesday night in the District 14 semifinals.
“We definitely wanted to win this one,” said Samson, who went 3-for-4 with four RBI. “Just get out of the first round, get that slump over with and now see what we can do with Des Moines Christian.”