WAVERLY — In the last three or four seasons, Waverly-Shell Rock head coach Casey Klunder and his Go-Hawk baseball team have found a formula for postseason success.
It’s not complicated. Throw strikes, make the easy plays, have good at-bats and move runners to put pressure on opposing defense.
Friday, W-SR (25-8) followed that recipe to perfection as Brady Leonard and John Stensland combined for a three-hitter and the 2015 state champions topped Crestwood 7-0 in a 3A district semifinal.
“We just wanted to get out, put up some runs and play like we know we can play,” Stensland said. “We have had some ups and downs, but I think we are right where we want to be right now.”
With Leonard dealing (five innings, three hits, six strikeouts), the Go-Hawks needed to find an answer offensively for a Cadet team that had given it fits during the regular season.
In three meetings with Crestwood (11-19), W-SR had scored 2, 3 and 0 runs while going 2-1 in those games. But this time around, Stensland delivered a two-run single in the second to stake the Go-Hawks to an early lead and W-SR put the game away in the fourth with a four-run inning aided by a two-run Luke Willis single.
“We certainly did better than we did the first three times against them,” Klunder said. “They were low-scoring, very good ball games. As far as pitching goes, at least in the playoffs, we have had good opening-round starts.
“Over the last few years we’ve had a couple of no-hitters and tonight it was a three-hitter. We put our best foot forward.”
That was all Leonard and Stensland needed as Crestwood had runners in scoring position just three times all night.
“It is always important to just go out and throw strikes,” Leonard said. “Even though we got an early lead, anything can still happen. I had confidence if I kept pitching well things would go our way.”
Waverly-Shell Rock will host Decorah in Monday’s district final at 7 p.m. at Hertel Field.
DECORAH 3, CHARLES CITY 0: In the first game, Brannan Hogan had to dance around a lot of trouble but he was able to go the distance, surviving five Viking errors as he shut out the Comets on five hits.
Hogan struck out eight and walked just one as Decorah improved to 22-8.
“We weren’t able to make the plays we needed to all the time ... but we did offensively and got outs when we needed them. I was just really focused on making a good pitch every time,” Hogan said.
The Vikings scored single runs in the second, third and sixth innings. The only run Decorah needed came on a Ryan Thorsten one-out double in the second that plated Dawson Holkesvik, who had singled to open the inning.
Drake Shelton and Jace Johnson also had run-scoring hits for the Vikings, who took two of three from Waverly-Shell Rock during the regular season, including a two-game sweep (2-1, 4-2) on June 30 in Decorah.
“They are a good team. They have good pitchers, good hitters,” Stensland said. “We didn’t play our best baseball up there. That wasn’t us. We want to come up and show them who we really are.”
DECORAH 3, CHARLES CITY 0
Charles City 000 000 0 — 0 5 5
Decorah 011 001 x — 3 8 5
Drew Mitchell and Dylan Salinas. Brannan Hogan and Ian Smith. 2B—Thorsten (Dec).
WAVERLY-S.R. 7, CRESTWOOD 0
Crestwood 000 000 0 — 0 3 1
Waverly-S.R. 021 400 x — 7 8 2
Clayton Ollendieck, Trae Pecinovsky (4), Kristian Szajna and John Henry. Brady Leonard, John Stensland (6) and Hunter Destival. WP—Leonard. LP—Ollendieck.