Especially for Driscoll and the other seniors on the team: starting second baseman Cody Collender, starting shortstop Cody Nolan, Rodney Witherspoon, John Gunderson and Trey Franks.
“It’s kind of hard to talk because I’m choking back tears, but it’s magical, the greatest experience I’ve ever had, getting the chance to go to state,” said Collender, a three-year starter. “Me and Ryan, we’ve been best friends since … a long time. We always talked about we were going to make it to state our senior year.
“We always wanted to, and we wanted to work hard and we finally did it. Honestly, at the beginning of the year, the middle of the year, I didn’t think, maybe we weren’t going to make it, but now we’re here, it’s unbelievable; I can’t believe we did this, but I know we earned it and we can go far.”
The River Kings did it despite getting outhit 9-6. But, they took advantage of 11 walks and six Bettendorf errors, jumping on the Bulldogs right away and not letting up.
The tone was set on the fourth pitch, when Dustin Caldwell reached on second baseman Brett Malsam’s error. Jake Faur moved him up with a sacrifice bunt, then Caldwell came around to score when third baseman Sam Ambrose couldn’t handle Collender’s sizzler right to him, then into left field.
“Coach always talks to us about how we like to get ahead first so we don’t have to put the pressure on us, so it was really big with that first run,” Collender said. “Finally breaking it open in that third inning with four really helps us a lot. It’s better to be up 5-0 than down 5-0.”
Once again, the top of the order got things going in the third, but the bottom half – with three straight varsity newcomers – provided back-to-back-to-back daggers. And two more errors prolonged the misery for the Bulldogs.