Clinton had been in the situation several times during the year.
The River Kings would have a fairly safe lead, only for the opponent to rally back to either make the game close or take the lead.
The situation arose once again in Friday’s Iowa Class 4A substate opener against Davenport North. The River Kings had a 6-2 lead with two out in the bottom of the fifth, only for Wildcats senior Joey Wallace to come through with a bases-loaded double to pull his team to within one.
This time, the River Kings responded.
A three-run outburst in the top of the sixth — the key hits coming off the bats of Dakota Atkinson and Brendon Roggendorf — rebuilt the River Kings’ four-run lead and sent the fourth-seeded team to a 9-5 win over the No. 3 Wildcats at Ken Kaul Field.
In a substate filled with upsets, Clinton (13-17) now has the privilege of hosting Bettendorf — a 7-6 upset winner over neighborhood rival and top-seeded Pleasant Valley — on Monday night at the Durgin Complex at Eagle Heights Elementary. Second-seeded Davenport Central, which held off Davenport West 6-3 in the only non-upset of the substate — awaits the winner for a Wednesday game at Brady Street Stadium.
Atkinson and Roggendorf each ended with three RBIs, while Ryan Driscoll finished with two.
“I was actually upset in my second (actually, his third) at-bat (in the fifth inning),” said Roggendorf, who after briefly complaining to the umpire when he wouldn’t call time, socked a two-run double into the left-field gap to seal the win. “So I had a little chip on my shoulder, but I hit a fastball and hit it hard. It feels really good to win a big game like this.
North starter Collin Belk had struck out Cody Collender for the second out of that sixth inning, only Wallace couldn’t hang onto the ball. Collender sped down to first, and Adam Ebensberger followed with a walk. After Collender and Ebensberger moved into scoring position on the Wildcats’ fourth passed ball of the game, Atkinson pounded a base hit to score Collender to begin rebuilding the River Kings’ lead.
“It was a pretty big run because it was after they came back,” Atkinson said. “It felt good because we had been struggling and it was a big game.”
Atkinson’s run-scorer was the prelude to Roggendorf’s clutch hit to re-establish the original four-run lead. It also won big praise from River Kings coach Trent Snowden, whose team at times this season had struggled to come up with clutch hitting.
“Our (top) hitters need to do that for us to be successful,” he said.
On the mound, Driscoll, who helped his own cause with a two-run home run over the left-field fence in the third inning, had not given up a walk until the fifth. That’s when, with two out, he walked Kyle Williams, Spencer Jones and Eric Reynolds before Wallace came through with his big smash. But Driscoll settled down, and his teammates went back to work.
“I wasn’t really worried,” said Driscoll, whose 100-pitch complete game saw him give up just six hits. “I threw a couple of balls and gave up some walks, but I knew my offense was behind me.”
Throughout the game, Clinton took advantage of sloppy North defense to build its lead. Of the River Kings’ nine runs, only two were earned. The Wildcats had five errors on the evening.
“We had a lot of unearned runs, but we’ll take everything we get,” Snowden said. “We at least made contact with the ball, and we put the ball in play hard. When we do that, good things are going to happen.”
While North’s defense broke down and the passed balls hurt even more, the River Kings defense came through with a pair of double plays and at least one other defensive gem.
That came in the third as the Wildcats were attempting to rally from a two-run deficit. With two out and runners at second and third, Wallace singled to left to score Jones. An alert Roggendorf took the throw from left fielder Adam Ebensberger and threw out Reynolds (the potential tying run) at third to complete the inning-ending 7-2-5 play.
“We made some great plays,” said Snowden, who also thought a double play immediately before the defensive play at third — on an attempted sacrifice bunt to the pitcher — was big. “I think we played very well tonight. But when we put the ball in play, we’re a good team, and we definitely did that.”
Now, it’s off to the substate semifinal, where a hungry Bettendorf team — the last-place team in the Mississippi Athletic Conference — awaits. The River Kings split with the Bulldogs (8-24) during the regular season, letting a late lead slip away in a 5-4 loss before coming back to get a 14-4 win in the nightcap.
Snowden said he hoped that Blake Pennock, who did not play Friday because of an injury suffered in the regular-season finale against Maquoketa (a 7-4 Clinton win), would be able to return at some point in the postseason.
“All the teams in the MAC are good teams,” the coach said. “You can never take anybody lightly. Whoever we play it’s going to be a battle. At this point, we need to keep doing what we did tonight — score at least five or six runs and hopefully our pitching holds up.”
CLINTON 9, DAVENPORT NORTH 5
Clinton 003 303 0 — 9 10 0
North 101 030 0 — 5 6 5
Ryan Driscoll and Brendon Roggendorf; Collin Belk, Trey Ogden (7) and Joey Wallace. WP — Driscoll (5-1). LP — Belk (4-2). Multiple hits — Clinton (Cody Collender 2, Dakota Atkinson 2, Roggendorf 2, Driscoll 2); North (Wallace 3). 2B — Clinton (Atkinson, Roggendorf); North (Wallace). HR — Clinton (Driscoll). RBIs — Clinton (Atkinson 3, Roggendorf 3, Driscoll 2); North (Wallace 5). SB — Clinton (Collender 2, Ebensberger, Stumbaugh). SF — North (Reynolds). S — Clinton (Roggendorf).