By Jon Gremmels
Herald Sports Editor
There’s never an easy way to exit a postseason tournament, but for the Camanche baseball team the story had a familiar ring.
Wilton took advantage of three Camanche errors to score three unearned runs in its final two at-bats and defeated the Indians 5-4 on Tuesday in the Iowa Class 2A District 8 semifinals. The Beavers (22-9) will face West Branch, which beat Durant-Bennett 12-2 in the first game Tuesday, in Saturday’s district championship game.
The Indians (12-20) had taken advantage of Wilton mistakes to score three runs in the second inning and take a 4-2 lead, but they were shut out the rest of the way. The loss left them with a 2-5 record in one-run games.
“That’s baseball,” Camanche coach Darry Cochran said. “We took advantage of their mistakes; they took advantage of ours. It’s kind of the way our season has gone. We get behind, we come back and we can’t find a way at the end.
“We had so many close games. We easily could have had our record reversed with a few breaks here of there.”
Camanche had its chances after Wilton scored twice in the bottom of the fifth inning to tie the game and once in the sixth to go ahead.
Ian Boysen led off the Camanche sixth with a double and advanced to third when Tanner Atkinson reached on a wild pitch on a strikeout. But winning pitcher Cole Crawford got a strikeout for the first out before Isaah Jackson hit a bouncer to short. Boysen held at third on the play, as shortstop Seth Kaufmann bobbled the ball but was able to get the forceout at second. Crawford then retired Derek Harksen for the final out.
“I did,” Cochran said about second-guessing himself for not having Boysen run on contact. “On the batter before, the infield was in. Their shortstop dropped back about halfway (on Jackson’s at-bat). It came back to bite me for being conservative.”
Moments later, the Beavers took the lead when Austin Croson reached on a two-error and scored when Brandon Van Zandt lined a double that sliced past right fielder Luke Reppert.
“Brandon really came through, and Austin really hustled,” Crawford said. “We had confidence at the end.”
Brandon Jewell raised the Indians’ hopes for a second straight comeback win with a one-out double in the seventh. After TJ Runge was walked intentionally, the Beavers got a forceout at third and a flyout to end the game.
The final innings spoiled a strong outing for Camanche senior pitcher Cole Atkinson.
He allowed eight hits and four walks while striking out six batters. Three of Wilton’s five runs were unearned.
“He pitched us very good,” Crawford said.
“He got his curve over tonight, and that was a big difference,” Cochran said of Atkinson’s pitching. “I thought he was doing well spotting his fastball and throwing a nice change and curve. They froze on that curve early.”
Atkinson struck out two batters looking to help get out of an early jam.
Camanche scored first, opening the game with a single by Seth Boysen and a run-scoring double by Jewell before Crawford struck out the next three batters.
The lead didn’t last long.
Wilton opened the bottom of the first with infield hits by Phillip Scarboro and Kaufmann before Atkinson got Crawford to line out and struck out Croson. But Van Zandt followed with a run-scoring single to right-center to tie the game, then pulled off the start of a double steal that scored Kaufmann. The next two batters walked to load the bases, but Atkinson avoided more trouble by striking out Tucker Barrett.
As quickly as they fell behind, though, the Indians were back on top. They took advantage of two Wilton errors to score three runs in the top of the second.
Tanner Atkinson led off with a single but was forced out at second. Jackson followed with a single to left-center, then both he and Reppert moved up a base on a wild pitch. Harksen walked to load the bases.
Seth Boysen followed with a chopper down the first-base line, but Reppert was safe at home when Barrett, the first baseman, made a bad throw to the plate.
Camanche caught a huge break next.
Cochran called for a suicide squeeze, but Jewell couldn’t make contact on an outside pitch. Jackson was caught between third and home, but catcher Todd Carter threw a bit high to third baseman Tanner Poor and the ball went off his glove, allowing Jackson to score the go-ahead run.
“I was thinking we’ve got to put pressure on them and let them know we’re here,” Cochran said.
Another wild pitch by Crawford allowed Harksen to score to give Camanche a 4-2 lead.
It was a lead that wouldn’t last, however.
Croson hit a ball up the middle to open the fifth. Jewell, the shortstop, got to the ball but couldn’t handle it. Van Zandt popped out, but Austin Anderson walked to put runners on first and second. Carter bounced into a short-to-second forceout that would have ended the inning without the earlier error but instead put runners on the corners. Barrett then delivered a run-scoring double, and courtesy runner Chris Moyer scored the tying run when first baseman Seth Boysen dropped Poor’s popup near the cutout at first base.
“What do you say about those?” Cochran said. “You give the kid a hug and say, ‘Get them next time.’ ”
Unfortunately for the Indians, next time will have to wait for next season.