IOWA CITY — In the middle of the second inning, during potentially the last game of Colton Bormann’s storied career in a Preston uniform, he led.
Bormann was the Big East Conference Most Valuable Player largely for what could to do with his arm. But after injuring it in the District 7 semifinal game last week, there were questions if he would take the mound again in Tuesday’s substate game against Van Buren of Keosauqua with a state tournament berth on the line.
Coach Matt Ash decided it was worth the gamble, and Bormann took the mound to start the game.
“Colton wanted the ball,” Ash said.
It looked as though the gamble paid off: Bormann went 1-2-3 to start the game. His run didn’t last, though, and after allowing four hits and two Warriors runs in the second, the senior made the selfless call to pull himself.
“I felt good, but my velocity was about 8 or 9 miles per hour down,” Bormann said. “Coach came out and I said to him, ‘Give Matt (Zeimet) the ball.’ “
Zeimet said, “I knew I had to be ready to go.”
Through seven innings the Trojans gave few concessions to Van Buren (23-5). The Warriors simply outpitched, out-hit, outfielded and generally outplayed their opponent en route to a 5-0 victory.
Thus, Preston fell one game short of its season goal to make it to state. Ash said that didn’t damper what the team accomplished in 2013.
“It’s not a terrible end result,” Ash said. “I know they’re probably terribly disappointed, having their sights set on state. It’s definitely not disappointing to me.”
Five of nine Trojans starters this season were freshmen or younger. The remainder of the lineup — seniors Bormann, Zeimet, Colin Larson and junior Craiton Andresen — assumed leadership roles for the 17-10 team, Ash said.
Zeimet took over for Bormann in the second, down 2-0 with one out and two runners on. He sent down the final two Warriors batters to stop the bleeding, but on the offensive side, the Trojans didn’t have an answer for Van Buren ace Thomas Fitzsimmons. They were no-hit through the first three innings.
“There was a lack of intensity, I think,” Ash said. “We came out a little flat and a little timid. We had a tendency to do that all year.
“They’re a solid team with solid fundamentals, and that’s what we expected,” he added.
Cam Larson broke the bid with a leadoff grounder through short in the fourth. But a batter later he was doubled up when his brother, Colin, lined out to second baseman Austin Bartholomew, who threw it to first before Cam could tag up.
That continued a string of defensive gems for Van Buren. An inning before, third baseman Robby Laughlin made a leaping grab over the left foul wall in front of the Warriors crowd to end the inning. Over the last four innings, three (including the fourth) featured a Van Buren double play.
The Warriors added three late insurance runs to add pressure — one in the fifth and two in the seventh — thanks to RBIs from Robert Barker and Noah Whitten. Both players had two-hit games, along with teammate Will Mertens.
Cam Larson tallied both Trojans hits on the night. Otherwise, with exception to three walks, Fitzsimmons held Preston completely off the bags, finishing a complete-game shutout on five strikeouts.
Van Buren will play the 8 p.m. nightcap against Gilbertville Don Bosco during the first round of the Class 1A state tournament Saturday in Des Moines.
“Our eighth-graders and our freshman stepped up really good this year,” said Zeimet, who finished with six strikeouts and three earned runs on just over five innings pitched. It was also his last game as a Trojan. “I’m always going to remember all the good times I’ve had on this field with my friends.”
The seniors made two trips to the state tournament and lost in the substate final each of the past two years.
Bormann, meanwhile, finished as one of Preston’s most decorated athletes with several all-state accolades and all-conference awards. His coach said he only regretted that Bormann couldn’t take the mound one last time at 100 percent.
“When he’s at his best, he’s one of the best in the state. They didn’t see him like that,” Ash said.
VAN BUREN 5, PRESTON 0
Van Buren 020 010 2 — 5 9 0
Preston 000 000 0 — 0 2 0
Thomas Fitzsimmons (7 ip, 2 h, 0 r, 3 bb, 5 so) and Noah Whitten; Colton Bormann (1 1/3 ip, 4 h, 2 r, 2 er, 0 bb), Matt Zeimet (5 2/3 ip, 5 h, 3 r, 3 er, 3 bb, 6 so) and Craiton Andresen. Multiple hits — Van Buren (Will Mertens 2, Robert Barker 2, Noah Whitten 2), Preston (Cam Larson 2). 2B — Van Buren (Mertens, Whitten). RBIs — Van Buren (Barker 2, Whitten, Tyson Sprouse 2).