Friday night at Ashford University Field all-stars from high schools all around Iowa were on the diamond representing their schools with pride.
In the first game of the doubleheader Small Schools East defeated Small Schools West 4-2 in a pitchers duel.
West sent Sergeant Bluff-Luton lefty Kendall Hazel to the mound who was using every pitch in his repertoire to keep East on their toes. Through the first five innings, Hazel spread out four East hits while getting some stellar defense behind him. All of the defenders were making the routine and spectacular plays look easy and Hazel himself struck out all three hitters looking in the bottom of the second inning.
“I like to work a lot of breaking stuff in and I like to keep guys guessing,” Hazel said. “I know my fastball isn’t going to overpower anyone, especially here with lots of good hitters, so I know I need to work in a lot of off-speed.”
On the other side Josh Martsching, of Davis County Bloomfield, was pitching a gem for East throwing a no-hitter through the first 7 innings.
“When you can play a team of all-stars and go seven innings without a hit, that’s pretty impressive.” East, and Clear Lake, head coach Seth Thompson. “The defense was making plays behind him and he was keeping the game moving which helps.”
Martsching’s no-hit bid was broken up in the top of the eighth when the first batter of the inning, JD Nielsen, ripped a double to deep center field. That was promptly followed by a single from Jalen Henningsen putting two on with no outs. Two batters later a ground ball was hit to second on what looked like the last out of the inning but a throwing error by the second baseman allowed two runs to score.
That let West cut the deficit to 4-2. Martsching walked the next batter and his night was done. East brought in Nate Steger to get them out of the jam and he did just that getting a ground out to second.
East waited until the sixth inning to push the first run of the game across the plate by taking advantage of some timely errors. Leading off the sixth, a throwing error by the third baseman allowed Craig Konrardy to reach second. He took third on a single by Calvin Matthews and was driven in on a sacrifice fly by Martsching giving East the 1-0 lead.
With the way Martsching was pitching on the mound and the defense was playing one run was all they seemed to need at that point.
“Our defense did great job all game long,” Martsching said. “Knowing you have a great defense behind you, if they put it in play most likely you get an out. I seemed to get a lot of ground balls and my infield did an amazing job.”
East took advantage of another West miscue, again with two outs. A bases loaded fly ball to right field turned into an error when the right fielder couldn’t handle ball in the sun and the wind and it hit off the side of his glove allowing three runs to come around and score.
Northeast’s DJ Fulton went 1 for 3 for Small East, which improved to 2-0 and is the only undefeated team.
In the second game of the night, Large School East defeated Large School West 5-3.
West struck first in the top half of the third inning with two runs. The second time through the lineup, Luke Tasler drew a walk and Alex Crowl followed quickly with a single, but an error by the right fielder allowed the runners to move up, making it second and third with no outs. Paul Jacobsen came through with a two-RBI single giving West the early 2-0 lead.
East responded quickly with two runs of their own in the bottom of the third starting off with a double by designated hitter Devon Jacobus.
“(I) came to the plate with a plan and executed it,” Jacobus said. “First at-bat I was looking curveballs, then after the second one I was looking fastballs the rest of the night.”
With runners on first and third, a balk from West pitcher Will Gormally pushed in Jacobus from third and moved Ryan Siems over to second. Siems came around to score on a bad throw by the catcher trying to pick off the runner on first, tying the game at two.
In the fourth, East put another two runs on the board, again taking advantage of an error at second to put runners in scoring position. Jacobus hit a two-run single putting Large East on top 4-2.
In the top of the fifth West threatened East’s lead when Crowl got his third single of the day and moved to second on a wild pitch. Jacobsen came up for the third time in the game with runners in scoring position and for the second time he hit an RBI single to push across a run. Jacobsen was quickly picked off to end the inning before West could continue their assault.
East added another run to their lead in the bottom of the fifth when pinch-hitter Ryan Lehmann started the inning with a single and got himself into scoring position two batters later for catcher Zach Isakson. Isakson hit a single up the middle to drive in Lehmann extending the lead to 5-3
The strong pitching performances from starter Jake Stolley and reliever Connor Grant held West to three runs on the night and they were backed up by some stellar defense to start the sixth inning.
“It was great, every ball in play I knew had a shot to be an out,” Stolley said.
On a ball hit deep in the hhole at short Derrick Vaughn backhanded it and whipped the ball over to first. The throw was high pulling Siems into the air, but he came down with the tag on the runner as they became tangled on the bag. Large East recorded the out pushing the momentum of the game further in its favor of as they cruised to the 5-3 win from there.