BETTENDORF – Kevin Cunningham had a vision recently. It was a number. The number was 25.
Ryan Driscoll had a vision, too. He saw himself pitching the final inning as Clinton High School wrapped up a berth in the baseball state tournament.
Both visions came true Wednesday night as Clinton beat host Bettendorf 10-3 in a Class 4A substate final to advance to next week’s state tournament in Des Moines. The River Kings will face second seed Ankeny in the quarterfinals at 8 p.m. on Wednesday.
“I don’t want to say I’m clairvoyant, but in my mind we were going to win 25 games,” Cunningham, Clinton’s second-year coach, said. “So I started doing the math, and we’re at 22 coming into substate. I had seen visually in my head 25 wins, so I thought let’s win those three substate games, gets me our 25th win and gets us to state. That’s what happened.”
Driscoll’s vision came true when Cunningham pulled freshman starter Cole Pennock after six solid innings and brought Driscoll in for the seventh.
“I’ve wanted to close this game for so long,” Driscoll said. “I envisioned it all since our last game against (Dubuque) Senior. I envisioned closing it out and hugging the catcher and the crowd going crazy. That’s exactly what happened.”
There were a few anxious moments, though, as Bettendorf loaded the bases with two walks and a single. But, after each of those batters reached base, Driscoll recorded a strikeout. The last one – when umpire Paul Keitel raised his fist for a called third strike on Bettendorf’s Andrew Fitzgerald – was one Driscoll will cherish.
“The best feeling I ever had in my life,” he said. “Up on the mound – after that kid (Austin Broyles) got a hit, I had two strikes on the next guy up,(and) I said, ‘This is the pitch; this is the pitch that is going to send us to state,’ and I hit my spot and there is no greater feeling than that feeling right there.”