WAVERLY — Things were getting a bit crowded atop the Iowa Conference baseball standings.
Heading into the weekend, Wartburg, Dubuque and Buena Vista all shared the league lead with 9-3 records. Now there are just two teams at the top after the Knights (21-10, 12-3) completed a weekend sweep of Buena Vista Saturday, 6-2 and 7-3.
In the opening game, senior hurler Max Langheinrich improved his record to 4-1 with the victory.
Four years ago, the Minnetonka (Minn.) High School standout did his homework before deciding to play at Wartburg.
“I knew that defense wins games just like the defense I had on my high school team,” Langheinrich said. “I knew I wanted to find a team that plays defense just as good and Wartburg was it. I feel so good going out there with these guys behind me.”
The Knights did their part Saturday, and so did Langheinrich in the second inning with Beavers at second and third and one out. Langheinrich got a strikeout for the second out, then snagged a comebacker behind his back and fired to first for the third out.
Langheinrich surrendered a solo homer to begin the sixth, but the offense came to life with a five-run outburst that included an RBI single by David Fitzgerald.
Then, protecting a 5-1 lead in the seventh, Wartburg’s defense came up big again. With one run in and two runners on, shortstop Clay Henning made a diving snag of a ground ball up the middle and flipped the ball to Eric Willis at second for the final out.
“We knew after we pounded these guys last night (a 10-2 victory) that they would come at us today,” Langheinrich said. “We did what we had to and got the win.”
Wartburg used a four-run eighth inning that included a key RBI knock from Cody Hyler to complete the sweep in the nightcap. That hit gave the Knights their first lead of the game, and they made it stand up.
“I knew I just needed to go up there and do my job,” said Hyler. “It was the second time facing him (Gage Smart) and I just wanted to make solid contact. When I hit it I felt it was a good hit, but I had no thoughts of that being the game-winner. We obviously are always looking for more.”
The Knights did get more as Eric Willis, Blake Mahoney and Jacob Thumann all came through with singles to produce three more runs.
“This was obviously a big game against a very good team and I thought we had two good pitching outings in this series,” Wartburg coach Joel Holst said. “We made some mistakes on defense and overcame some things early.
“I guess you can say we won pretty ugly with the exception of the pitching, but they are wins,” said Holst. “The games get bigger from here on and we just have to keep playing well.”
Wartburg 6-7, Buena Vista 2-3
Buena Vista 000 001 100 — 2 6 2
Wartburg 000 005 01x — 6 9 1
Lewis, Mason (6) and Harms. Langheinrich, Bohling (8) and Hyler. WP—Langheinrich (4-1), LP—Lewis (6-2). S—Bohling (2). HR—Hilgenberg (BV). 2B—Hovick (W).
Buena Vista 110 010 000 — 3 7 0
Wartburg 000 210 04x — 7 12 1
Jones, Bower (5), Smart (5), Holmes (8) and Harms. Knouse, Huber (3), Jordan (5), Nadermann (7) and Hyler. WP—Nadermann (3-0). LP—Holmes. 2B—Brown (W).
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