CEDAR FALLS — It was a strange night at the ball park for the Cedar Falls baseball team, as it needed some late game heroics and a rally to beat the Iowa City High, 9-8 in the first game of a Mississippi Valley Conference doubleheader at Robinson-Dressor Sports Complex.
In the night cap, it was pretty much a sleeper, as the Tigers could muster no offense in an uneventful 4-0 loss.
The night began with the Tigers (6-6, 3-5) building a 5-0 advantage through two innings, as they looked to cruise to an easy game one win.
The Little Hawks (10-3, 6-2) changed the tune in their half of the third as they tied it.
As the game flowed into the later innings, City High was able to scratch a run across in the fifth, and a pair of tallies in the sixth to take a 8-5 lead. Cedar Falls meanwhile struggled for timely hits as it loaded the bases in both the fourth and fifth innings and came away with no runs.
With the game slowly slipping away from the Tigers, the offense finally hit their mark in the bottom of the sixth.
Caiden Barnett reached base the hard way as he became the third man hit by a pitch from the Hawks hurlers (Casey Sole took two for the team). Tanner Schiefelbein followed with a single, then Sole walked loading the bases once again with two outs.
This time, however, the Tigers cashed in as sophomore first baseman, Drew Hoth, made a huge connection with the ball and drove it over the left field fence, for a grand slam, and putting the Tigers back on top 9-8.
“When I got up there I was just looking to get a base hit and maybe a couple runs in,” said Hoth. “When I hit it, I had a good feeling but I wasn’t sure if it would make it. Once it went over I was just so happy and thought, ‘Okay now we need a couple more.’”
Hoth shot was the first home run hit this year by a Tiger.
“It would have been nice to get some more runs because we were against a very good team,” added Hoth. “It showed in the second game, we just couldn’t get anything going.”
The Tigers were clinging to a slim one-run lead as the Hawks came to bat in the final frame.
Ben Steve led off the inning with a base hit, then stole second putting the tying run in scoring position.
Zach Neese was on the mound for the Tigers, which was his first appearance of the year, and got the next two batters to pop out not allowing Steve to advance. The Hawks lead-off batter was next, and Neese got him to hit a shallow fly ball down the right field line.
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Right field freshman, Max Steinlage came charging in and made a last second lunge at the ball and made the catch falling toward the foul line.
“When I first started to make the play for the ball I didn’t think it was going to be me to make the catch,” said Steinlage. “All of a sudden it started to die and I knew I had to get there. I didn’t even think about it, I just dove and made the catch. This was really a crazy game and I was glad it was over.”
The breaks finally went the Tigers way which was what head coach Nick Klein has been begging for over the past two seasons.
“Yeah it seems as if the breaks were always going the other way,” said Klein. “When we had the early 5-0 lead and couldn’t hold it, it came off a couple errors and some lucky hits by them. We got the big break we needed in that sixth with Hoth hitting the homer. That kind of lifted everyone’s spirit and then when Steinlage made that great catch to end it, that was a huge play. The second game there just wasn’t anything there. I don’t mind getting beat if there was effort given. That is the one thing about baseball, it is a sport where you can just turnaround and play right away the next night. You have to have a short memory in this game.”
Cedar Falls 9-0, City High 8-4
IC High 005 012 0—8 9 2
Cedar Falls 050 004 x—9 7 3
Ryland Threlkeld-Wiegand, JD Alberhasky (6) and Liam McComas. Casey Sole, Jack Steffener (3), Conrad Burks (4), Zach Neese (6) and Gage Flanscha, Sole (3). HR—Zach Kuepker (IC), Drew Hoth (CF). 2B—Kuepker (IC).
City High 112 000 0—4 12 0
Cedar Falls 000 000 0—0 3 0
Reese Hayden and Brady Herzic. Tanner Schiefelbein, Conrad Burke (4), Ben Bowman (6) and Sole. HR—McComas (IC). 2B—Sam Lewers (IC)