By Jon Gremmels Herald Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — SOLON — Few things went wrong as Northeast won a pair of games en route to winning the school’s first baseball district title last week. They scored first each time, had the momentum early, got two great pitching outings from Cole Dickey and scored runs against two of the premier right-handed pitchers in Iowa.
Few things went right for the Rebels on Tuesday night, though, with a berth in the state tournament on the line.
Their bats were shut down by a left-hander, Mount Vernon made the plays and got the bounces, none of the four Northeast pitchers could contain the Mustangs and an early deficit turned into an insurmountable gap in the second inning.
“They did the little things right — from baserunning to bunting to two-strike approach,” Northeast coach Tyler Howe said. “They executed on all aspects very well. They played the game hard, and it was their night.”
But, the Rebels still went away from the 10-0, six-inning loss in the Class 2A Substate 5 final knowing that season had plenty of positives despite the disappointing end.
“We made history this year,” Northeast junior center fielder Charlie Marcucci said. “Nobody ever has been district champions in school history at Northeast. We’re very proud of what we did this year. Of course, we wanted to get to state, but nobody will ever be able to take that away from us.
“No one has ever done what we did. We are the last Big East Conference champions ever. The Big East ends this year. We did a lot of good things this year, and we can’t hang our heads about it.”
Marcucci, the lone left-handed hitter in Northeast’s lineup, was the only Rebel who had much success against Mount Vernon left-handed pitcher Adam Ketelsen, a freshmen. Marcucci had two of Northeast’s three hits and was robbed of another one when Mustangs left fielder Luke Hansen laid out to catch Marcucci’s sinking line drive to end the third inning.
“I honestly don’t know,” Marcucci said when asked what Ketelsen did that made him so effective. “He came out and he did what he did, but I think we just had an off-night. … I know our guys nine times out of 10 we wouldn’t have gotten shut out again. But props to him; he did a heck of a job.”
Nick Wall had the other hit for Northeast, and Ketelsen issued two walks but also was helped by two double plays. He struck out just one batter.
“We were hitting them at people and weren’t hitting them hard,” Howe said. “We were out on our front foot a lot. We faced two really hard-throwing pitchers our last two games, and I don’t want to make excuses, but I think (what) had a little bit to do with it was seeing quite the velocity drop. The kid pitched a great game, and he had us off-balance all night. The kids fought. It just wasn’t our night.”
Mount Vernon coach Jeremy Elliott praised his pitcher.
“He did a fantastic job,” Elliott said. “He’s a fearless freshman. He just wants the ball in his hand all the time. … We felt pretty comfortable putting him out there today because of that mentality.”
Northeast batted first and had no reason to expect what was to come after Marcucci reached on a bunt single and Tevin Stoecker followed with a flyout to deep center field.
But, there was an indication of what would follow in the bottom half of the first inning. Mount Vernon scored without getting a hit when Trey Ryan led off with a walk, was bunted to second, took third on a pitch in the dirt and scored on Marquis Dew’s sacrifice fly.
“You ask any baseball coach — you get the leadoff batter on base and good things will happen,” Elliott said. “We were able to do that a few times in the postseason, and we scored some runs with that. You put the ball in play and you make the defense make mistakes, and good things happen when you do that.”
The best things happened in the second inning, though, when Northeast starter Jared Henfrey retired the first batter he faced. By the time the Rebels recorded the second out they trailed 6-0.
Jacob Pisarik reached on a bunt single. The throw was close, but on the inside of the line, and Dickey couldn’t handle it cleanly at first base. Pisarik then stole second, again safe on a close play as Northeast had trouble handling the ball.
After Spencer Drahos walked, Luke Hansen hit a high chopper over Dickey’s head and into right field, scoring Pisarik and sending Drahos to third. It also sent Howe to the mound to take out Henfrey and call on Dickey, who pitched two complete-game masterpieces in the previous eight days. The magic wasn’t there this time.
Noah Dahlstrom greeted him with a bunt single that scored a run, and Ryan made it 4-0 with an RBI double. The Mustangs made it 5-0 when Eldred couldn’t connect on a suicide squeeze but there was no one to take catcher Zach Scott’s throw to third base. It went into left field, allowing Dahlstrom to score. Eldred wrapped up the five-run outburst with a soft single to right field that scored Ryan.
“You’ll have that in baseball,” Marcucci said. “It’s unpredictable. You’ll get an inning that’s yours; you’ll get an inning that’s not yours. That was their inning. Take it away it’s a five-nothing game and a lot closer than it looks. One inning in baseball will kill you.”
Elliott said: “It’s a big deal; I don’t know what else to say. It’s a big deal to get them put down and get us going so we relax a bit. … It’s really important to get those runs early so our bats relax a bit and we were able to do some good things at the plate.”
Mount Vernon (26-14) ended Dickey’s night when the first three batters reached, although the Mustangs added just one run as Tevin Stoecker came in and retired three straight batters. He faced just six more batters over the next two innings before a three-run sixth brought the early end to the game on the 10-run rule, a sacrifice fly by Conner Welch scoring the 10th run and sending the Mustangs to Des Moines to face Roland-Story in the quarterfinals.
The Rebels bowed out with a 24-9 record.
“It was a heck of a year,” said Howe, a former standout for the Rebels who took over as coach this season. “It was a lot of fun to be a part of and a lot of fun for my first year back. I couldn’t ask to be with a better group of boys. They played hard. They did everything that me and coach (Ryan) Jordan asked for all year long.
“I feel that when the year started a lot of people didn’t really know what to think about Northeast because they lost a lot from last year’s team — a lot — and it’s all a credit to them and how hard they played and how hard they worked. I told them you’ve got to keep your head up and be proud.”
MOUNT VERNON 10, NORTHEAST 0 (6 INNINGS)
Northeast 000 000 — 0 3 1
Mount Vernon 151 003 — 10 11 0
Game ended with 2 outs in 6th inning (10-run rule)
Jared Henfrey (1 1/3 ip, 2 h, 4 r, 4 er, 2 bb, 0 so, 1 wp), Cole Dickey (2/3 ip, 6 h, 3 r, 2 er, 0 bb, 0 so), Tevin Stoecker (3 ip, 3 h, 3 r, 3 er, 1 bb, 2 so), Ryan Livesay (2/3 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 1 bb, 1 so) and Zach Scott. Multiple hits — Northeast (Charlie Marcucci 2); Mount Vernon (Jacob Pisarik 2, CJ Eldred 2, Luke Hansen 2, Noah Dahlstrom 2). 2B — Mount Vernon (Trey Ryan, Conner Welch). RBIs — Mount Vernon (Marquis Dew 2, Dahlstrom 2, Trey Ryan, Eldred, Pisarik, Welch).