The West Delaware baseball team drew the unenviable 5 p.m. starting time in sweltering heat July 19, and Luke Kehrli’s two-run double in the fourth stood up as the game-winning hit as the Hawks downed Independence, 3-1, in district semifinal play at Central DeWitt.
Independence entered with a 12-26 mark, while the Hawks were 14-23-1.
West Delaware wasted no time scoring, plating a run in the top of the first. Kyle Cole was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, and moved up 90 feet on Lukas Meyers’ sacrifice bunt. Cole took third on a passed ball, and Jared Voss drove him in with a single to left, making it 1-0 after a half-inning.
A base on balls, a wild pitch and a bad-hop single put runners on the corners, and an errant pick-off attempt at third base bounced off the runner’s helmet, allowing him to score and tie the game.
West Delaware appeared to be in good position to possibly take the lead in the third, as Cole led off with an apparent triple. The Mustangs appealed to first base and the umpire ruled that Cole had missed the bag and was called out. Luke Farmer followed with what would have been an RBI-single to left, but the score remained tied into the fourth.
Patience paid off big time for the Hawks, as Nick Casey and Chris LaRosa both waited out walks to begin the frame. With the situation calling for a bunt, Ben Ridenour delivered one, giving himself up to move his two teammates into scoring position.
Kehrli then found open space in right field for a double, with Casey and LaRosa both scoring without a play.
“That’s great baseball,” said Lahr. “That bunt was huge, being able to move those guys to second and third in a tied ball game. It puts a lot of pressure on their pitcher.”
Taking their 3-1 lead into the bottom of the fourth, West Delaware coach Nate Lahr opted to go with a fresh arm, moving Voss to the mound in relief of Cole, after a lead-off single. Cole took center field, and his defensive prowess helped protect the lead, as he made a jumping catch of a liner to end the inning.
“With Kyle on the mound we really like our defense behind him, and we knew they were an aggressive team,” Lahr said. “The game plan was to attack the strike zone and try to let them get themselves out.”
He said the heat also played into his decision. “Kyle was running all over the bases twice and just kind of looked to me like he was losing steam a little bit. We gave them a fresh look and it worked out.”
Cole allowed just three hits in his three innings on the mound, walked three and fanned a pair.
The Hawks mounted the only other minor scoring threat of the contest in the fifth when Casey singled and took second when the ball was misplayed. He was later thrown out trying to steal third.
Voss held the Mustangs hitless over his four innings to earn the win.
Kehrli led West Delaware’s seven-hit attack, going 3-for-3 with the double and two RBIs. Farmer, Voss, Casey and Logan Woellert added singles.
The Hawks moved on to face 34-3 Central DeWitt Monday, after the Sabers doubled up Anamosa 8-4. (See story on page 1B.)