For the second time in three postseason games, Preston made it look easy Saturday night.
The Trojans (30-6) beat North Linn 10-0 in five innings to win the Class 1A District 7 championship.
"We thought we had them coming in to this one," Preston coach Mark Bormann said. "We have a seasoned, veteran team. We wanted to play steady-eddie ball and try to end it early, save some innings off our pitchers. That's kind of been the strategy all along."
There has been one constant each game for Preston — Jason Feddersen getting on base to lead off the game and scoring to put the Trojans ahead 1-0.
"He's a good leadoff hitter, one of the best in the state," Bormann said. "He's a good hitter, a good baseball player — patient, knows the strike zone. He's got good speed."
Feddersen saw eight pitches before reaching on an error to open the top of the first inning.
"There's always nerves," Feddersen said. "It's tough being the first guy up to bat, the first guy to see the pitcher. Over the years, it's become my thing. I've learned to deal with the pressure of being the first guy.
"Being a leadoff, that's what you do. You've got to be patient and make him throw a lot of pitches to you. It helps out a lot for the two, three and four guys. They see what he's got."
Seeing all those pitches helped the next two batters, Keaton Michel and Colton Bormann hit back-to-back singles to load the bases with no outs.
Then Austin Daniels reached on an error and Alex Hinerichsen hit an RBI groundout to put Preston ahead 2-0.
Scoring first is something the Trojans have stressed, and Feddersen keeps doing it.
"I think it helps out a lot," Feddersen said. "It gives them confidence and it starts out the momentum. Momentum is a huge thing in baseball. Once we got that momentum going and our confidence going, there's no stopping us."
Coach Bormann said he was a little disappointed his team didn’t score four runs in the top of the first to take complete control.
“We left two runners stranded in the first inning, and that's not good," he said.
Preston added to that lead in the second inning. Feddersen hit a two-out single, and then Michel stepped to the plate. Michel hit his second home run over the right-field fence in three postseason games — all at Hitter’s Park — to give Preston a 4-0 lead.
"It was just another one that was right down the middle," Michel said. "This one felt even better off the bat than the last one."
In the second inning, Michel showed the Trojans can play long ball. In the third inning, they played small ball.
Hinerichsen singled to lead off the inning and was lifted for pinch-runner Joe Kilburg. Kilburg advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Blake Tebbe and to third when Matt Zeimet reached on an error.
Then Colin Larson came to the plate and laid down a safety squeeze bunt. As soon as North Linn’s pitcher fielded the ball and turned to throw Larson out at first, Kilburg took off for home and scored easily.
"It's all part of baseball," Colton Bormann said of the offense’s versatility. "One through nine, we feel like we can do everything if we want to. We work on it hard in practice. We do a lot of tee work. We practice our bunting a lot."
Craiton Andresen and Feddersen then hit back-to-back run-scoring singles to put Preston ahead 7-0 after three innings.
Preston put the game away in the top of the fifth inning. Zeimet led off with a walk and Larson singled to put the first two runners on. Andresen reached on a fielder’s choice when Zeimet was safe at third on an error. Zeimet attempted to score on the play but was thrown out at home. That brought Feddersen to the plate with runners on first and third and one out.
"I knew I was the winning run," Feddersen said, referring to the 10-run rule. "I knew it from the start, when I came up to bat, that I was probably going to be the winning run. The big thing was getting on base. Once I did, I knew what I had to do. I knew I had to get there because anything can happen."
Feddersen was hit by a pitch to load the bases. After a strikeout, Colton Bormann came to the plate with the bases loaded, two outs and Preston possibly three runs from shortening the game by two innings.
"We wanted to save our pitching, so I knew we needed three," Colton Bormann said. "I was trying to put the ball in play."
He put the ball in play with a double, deep to the left-center field gap.
"I knew if I hit in the gap, (Feddersen) was coming around," he said.
"We sent him from first on Colton's double and there wasn't any stopping him," coach Bormann said. "It was fun watching him tear around the bases. He's one of the fastest kids in the state, and I wanted those 10 runs."
North Linn seriously threatened to score only once. Daniels breezed through the first 2 1⁄3 innings on the mound, allowing only two baserunners and striking out three. But then he allowed a single, hit a batter and walked a batter. Colton Bormann came in to pitch with the bases loaded and one out.
"Austin, he does a nice job for us," coach Bormann said. "I didn't want them to score any runs. We wanted to 10-run them and we did. We wanted to put the fire out there and we did. We wanted Colton to get two or three innings anyway, so I said, 'Why wait until the sixth and seventh innings? We'll have him throw the fourth and fifth.' Austin's a good pitcher; he's just got to learn to know that he is. He talks himself out of it sometimes, I think."
Colton Bormann, who said he wasn’t nervous coming in to that situation, got the next batter to pop out to Zeimet at third base and struck out Austin Trumbull to end the inning.
"We were up 7-0, we wanted to save some innings on our pitching, so they brought me in," Colton Bormann said. "I was just in there throwing strikes and trying to get them out."
The win gave Preston its third consecutive district title and sets up a date with Big East rival Lisbon on Tuesday, with the winner advancing to the state tournament.
"It's definitely an accomplishment being the district champions for the third year in a row," Feddersen said. "It's a really good feeling and we can be happy about it. But we're always focused on the next step when it comes to (postseason) play."
PRESTON 10, NORTH LINN 0 (5 INNINGS)
Preston 223 03 — 10 10 1
North Linn 000 00 — 0 1 6
Austin Daniels (2 1⁄3 ip, 1 h, 0 r, 0 er, 2 bb, 3 so), Colton Bormann (2 2⁄3 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 0 er, 0 bb, 2 so) and Blake Tebbe; Nick Price (5 ip, 10 h, 10 r, 5 er, 1 bb, 2 so) and Matt Brady. Multiple hits — Preston (Jason Feddersen 2, Keaton Michel 2, Bormann 2). 2B — Preston (Bormann). HR — Preston (Michel). RBIs — Preston (Bormann 3, Michel 2, Feddersen, Daniels, Alex Hinerichsen, Colin Larson, Craiton Andresen).
For the second time in three postseason games, Preston made it look easy Saturday night.
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