STORY CITY — Four seasons after back-to-back one-win campaigns, the Collins-Maxwell/Baxter baseball team is state tournament bound.
Junior Brady Kemp hit a two-run double in the first inning to give the Raiders an early lead, and then his bases-loaded, three-run double in the seventh put the finishing touches on CMB’s 6-1 win over Ogden during the Class 2A Substate 7 title game Wednesday at Norsemen Field.
Both of Kemp’s run-scoring hits came with two outs and were plenty of support for senior Brady Stover, who once again showed he is one of the best 2A pitchers in the state.
Stover fanned 18 Bulldogs on the night, allowed just one hit and walked two in improving to 4-0 this postseason.
“It’s unbelievable. That’s the only word I have to describe it,” Seeman said. “These guys are so deserving, especially the seniors. They have stuck it out during not so great seasons of baseball with me and other coaches. The upperclassmen are carrying us right now.”
This CMB senior class has come a long way since their eighth grade year. The Raiders went 1-21 in 2012 and 1-22 in 2013. They improved that win total to 8-14 in Seeman’s second season and then went 10-15 and reached the district final last year.
The 2016 season had plenty of ups and downs. But behind Stover’s left arm and some clutch hitting from a different Raider each night, the Raiders’ season will culminate at Principal Park in Des Moines for the first time in program history.
The Iowa High School Boys State Baseball Tournament kicks off Friday. The Raiders begin their tournament run at 7:30 p.m. Monday against Carroll Kuemper Catholic.
“During my first three years, we had kids picking up the gloves for the first time at the first practice of the season,” Stover said. “But we started getting more and more guys committed to being better year round. The guys overall are just more dedicated to the sport. We knew we had the talent. It showed tonight and throughout the playoffs.”
Stover’s run through the postseason has been nothing short of amazing. He has been on the mound for 28 of the 30 total innings. In those innings, Stover has struck out 67 batters, allowed five hits and walked eight.
He began the game with a 3-0 count to Ogden’s leadoff hitter Zach McCloud but followed with nine straight strikes in fanning the side in the first. He also struck out the side in the fourth, sixth and seventh innings.
The only hit he surrendered came from Jade Thompson in the third, and that was a bunt single down the third-base line that nearly rolled foul.
Graham Tews led off the second inning with a walk and then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Stover (7-0) ended the inning with back-to-back strikeouts but not before Tews stole third and home to put Ogden (20-12) on the board. The only other base runner Stover allowed was a walk to Conner Paulsen in the seventh.
“I never thought we would make it this far ever. I am so pumped for this team,” Stover said. “We have been playing together year after year, and the dedication has paid off. We deserve this.”
Kemp made sure Stover’s effort on the mound resulted in a win.
With two outs in the first inning, junior Creighton Caple was hit by a pitch and then senior Brad Ritter walked.
Kemp then strolled to the plate and laced a 2-1 pitch over the left fielder’s head. The double plated Caple and Ritter to make it 2-0.
Senior Spencer Gauch added to the Raiders’ lead in the second. He was hit by a pitch, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and then scored on another wild pitch.
That made it 3-0 and chased Ogden starter Nick Ross (7-6), who took the loss and lasted just 1 1/3 innings.
Bulldog reliever Carter Church, a freshman, kept the Raiders off balance until the seventh. He struck out a total of six in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings, but Kemp came through again in CMB’s final at-bat.
The three-run seventh inning started with a Gauch single. Church retired the next two batters but walked Caple and Ritter to load the bases.
Kemp, who hit a team-best .403 on the season, drilled another double to the fence to clear the bases. That made it 6-1 and essentially put the game away for the Raiders (14-11).
“It feels amazing. Words can’t describe my feeling. I am honored and blessed to be a part of this team,” Kemp said.
Having not gotten a hit in the two previous playoff games, Kemp decided to make a few changes for Wednesday’s game. The most notable change was the use of a lighter bat. Seeman also moved him down a few spots in the batting order.
“I think he puts way too much pressure on himself in the three hole, so I told him that I was going to switch him and Creighton, move him down the order a little bit,” Seeman said. “I moved him, and I think that was enough mentally. He’s his own worst enemy sometimes.”
Kemp finished 2-for-4 with five RBIs against Ogden. Caple also had success in his new spot in the order, finishing 1-for-2 with two runs scored, a walk and a hit by pitch.
“With (Stover) pitching, I thought the game was over when we went up 2-0,” Caple said. “The momentum kind of died in the dugout during the middle innings, but that hit by Brady Kemp was huge. It sealed the deal.”
Ritter did not get a hit in the game, but he walked twice and scored two runs.
“I’ve just never felt anything like this in my life,” Ritter said. “Looking back, we won one game my freshman year. We’ve improved and matured so much over the years. This is amazing.”
The Substate 7 championship game was originally slated for Tuesday night in Boone. Rain washed out that game, forcing the game to be played a day later and in a different location.
The location for the state baseball tournament is Principal Park, home of the Triple-AAA Iowa Cubs. All four 2A quarterfinals will be played Monday. The Raiders, who have won five straight games, end the night with a game against Kuemper Catholic at 7:30 p.m.
Contact Troy Hyde at
641-792-3121 ext. 6536 or firstname.lastname@example.org