By Jon Gremmels
Herald Sports Editor
When Derek Harksen lined a single to center field in the second inning Saturday evening, the outlook didn’t seem too bad for the Camanche Indians.
Hunter Alm’s infield single in the previous at-bat had brought in a run for the Indians, and Harksen’s base hit loaded the bases and put the tying run on second base with just one out.
It got no closer for Camanche, though. Just uglier.
Wildcats starting pitcher Danny Smith retired the next two batters, and Durant-Bennett took advantage of an eight-run inning – all unearned — to win the Iowa Class 2A District 10 baseball quarterfinal 13-1 in a game shortened to five innings because of the 10-run rule.
“If we didn’t have that big inning it could have been close,” Harksen said. “We might still be playing.
“We always have that bad inning. Everything goes downhill, and we can’t recover from it. It’s the story of our season.”
A two-out error changed the complexion of the game. But then, errors plagued the Indians for the whole game. They committed nine of them, which led to 10 unearned runs.
“They put the ball in play, and we’ve got to make plays,” Camanche coach Daryl Cochran said.
Camanche pitchers also walked three batters and hit two with the bases loaded.
Although the defensive problems started earlier, the climax came in the top of the fourth inning.
Camanche pitcher Cody Mensinger had settled in after a rough start. He had overcome three errors to hold the Wildcats scoreless in the second and third innings, keeping the Indians within 3-1 as they entered the fourth.
The first two batters went down quickly – two outs on three pitches. The next two Wildcats – Justin Shaffer and CJ Downing – hit singles to put runners on the corners, but Mensinger should have been out of trouble on the next pitch.
“Cody did a great job again,” Cochran said. “He reared back a couple of times to get strikes. He competes. I’ve liked working with him. He will sorely be missed.
“He had his sinker going and his off-speed curve going well.”
Instead of heading back to the dugout, though, what appeared to be a ground ball for an easy out became another error. The previous five errors had cost Camanche just one run, this one – and two more in the inning – were disastrous.
An infield hit and a walk produced another run to make it 5-1. Drew George followed with a two-run single to center field, and the Wildcats added another run on the play when Mensinger’s throw to third was wide of the mark. Two more walks loaded the bases and ended Mensinger’s stay on the mound.
Seth Boysen replaced Mensinger, and the pitching change didn’t change the Indians’ fortunes. Gavin Meyer reached on an error that brought in another run, then Shaffer and Downing received bases-loaded walks before Boysen struck out Alex Rouse to end the inning.
But, the eight-run inning provided the 10-run margin for a shortened game, and the Wildcats tacked on two more in the fifth – including another unearned run on Camanche’s ninth error – and the game was over after the Indians batted in the bottom half of the inning.
For Harksen, the season finale resembled too many other games during the 7-23 season.
“I think we should have (had more success this season),” he said. “We have that bad inning that kills us. It seems like it happens more than it should.”
It appeared that inning might be coming right away Saturday, but Mensinger pitched out of a jam after the first three batters reached base. He hit Rouse – his second hit batter of the inning – to force in the game’s first run with one out.
Cochran said Mensinger’s curve didn’t quite turn over as it should early.
“They were crowding the plate, and we were trying to pitch inside,” Cochran said.
An infield single by Adam Bartenhagen brought in the second run, and the third scored on a two-out error before Mensinger induced an inning-ending double play.
“I was pleased with the way he got out of that jam,” Cochran said. “We did come out and scratch out a run.”
That came in the bottom of the second. Kyler Campie singled with one out, stole second and went to third when Jesse Everhart reached on an error – the only one Durant committed. Harksen followed with his single to load the base, as Cochran decided to hold Everhart at third.
“I thought about (sending him),” Cochran said. “But we had the meat of our order coming up and just one out.”
Smith retired the next two batters, though, and the Wildcats took advantage of Camanche’s mistakes to blow it open.
Durant will face Northeast in the district semifinals at 5 p.m. Tuesday in Wilton.
DURANT-BENNETT 13, CAMANCHE 1 (5 INNINGS)
Durant 300 82 -- 13 8 1
Camanche 010 00 -- 1 4 9
Danny Smith (5 ip, 4 h, 1 r, 1 er, 2 bb, 5 so) and Adam Bartenhagen; Cody Mensinger (3 2/3 ip, 7 h, 11 r, 2 er, 4 bb, 6 so), Seth Boysen (1 1/3 ip, 1 h, 2 r, 1 er, 3 bb, 2 so) and Tanner Atkinson, Brice Eversen (4). Multiple hits – Durant (Justin Shaffer 3, Bartenhagen 2). 2B – Durant (Shaffer). RBIs – Durant (Alex Rouse, Bartenhagen, Logan Lafrenz, Drew George 2, Shaffer 2, CJ Downing, Smith); Camanche (Hunter Alm).