Pitchers' duel at Principal, Trojans fall at stateDCB’s Cole Baker matches Fairfield’s Joe Hietpas pitch for pitch
Yet another pitcher’s duel unfolded Tuesday when the Fairfield High School baseball team took on Dallas Center-Grimes in the opening round of the Class 3A State Tournament at Principal Park in Des Moines.
This was another postseason extra innings affair for the Trojans. What was an exciting game turned into a nightmare scenario after the ninth inning went awry, and Fairfield’s playoff run came to a climax with a 3-0 loss to the Mustangs.
Fairfield’s senior ace Joe Hietpas was stellar on the mound for what would wind up being his last start as a Trojan. After eight dominating innings on the hill, Hietpas gave way to a fresh arm in the ninth. His pitch count was high, and in the end, Hietpas could only do so much. He allowed just one hit, one walk and struck out eight batters.
“I didn’t feel like I had the best stuff for a couple innings but I just battled,” Hietpas said. “I tried to get some weak contact and I was able to [induce] some fly balls and grounders.”
The Trojans had their chances to score but could never get over the hump and plate a runner. Jordan Reid was hit by a pitch to open the game and was stranded with another runner in the first inning. Seven total runners were stranded by the Trojans, and many innings ended with called third strikes on Fairfield batters.
“We needed to capitalize on their mistakes and we didn’t,” Fairfield coach Josh Allison said. “I thought we let too many good pitches go by to fall behind in the count. It’s tough to take called third strikes with runners in scoring position.”
Fairfield’s best chances to score came in the bottom of the seventh and eighth innings. Cameron Baumann got picked off of second base in the seventh on a designed play ran by the Mustangs. It was a bunt situation with runners on first and second, but Dallas Center-Grimes moved their defense before the pitch, acting as though the bunt had already been laid down. Pitcher Cole Baker swung around and tossed the ball to second base after Baumann had gotten too far off the bag.
In the eighth, the Trojans loaded the bases thanks to a Reid single and two huge Mustang errors. Again, Fairfield could not get the big hit they needed. Baker pitched a complete game shutout, totaling three hits, a walk and 10 strikeouts.
Walks and fielding mistakes allowed the Mustangs to put a three-spot on the scoreboard in the top of the ninth. Senior Austin Gridley pitched the inning and got into trouble early with a leadoff base on balls. A sacrifice fly to centerfield by Parker Schutt and the resulting throwing error gave them the 3-0 lead, and that’s all Baker needed to close out the contest.
Baumann and Mason Ellis both had singles for Fairfield. Reid made two fantastic plays at third base, including one on a bunt where he charged, barehanded the ball and made a pinpoint throw to first.
In the end, the game played out much like Fairfield’s substate victory over Centerville. It went nine innings and Hietpas worked effectively. Fairfield’s opponent made plenty of mistakes. This time, however, the Trojans were simply not able to capitalize on their opposition’s errors.
“You have to take advantage of every opportunity,” Hietpas said. “Baseball is a game where things can happen so fast and so quick that if you miss a chance you may not get another for a while. I definitely feel like we missed some opportunities, and it’s tough.”
Dallas Center-Grimes (23-14) will play Sergeant Bluff-Luton (25-11) in the state semifinals Friday. No. 1 ranked Waverly-Shell Rock (36-2) will be tested by state power Davenport Assumption (24-15), which has won eight state titles.
Class 3A No. 5 Fairfield ends this season 30-8. The Trojans can celebrate a Southeast Conference title and just the second State Tournament berth in school history. Eight seniors will move on from the program, including Hietpas, who was named the Southeast Conference Player of the Year two seasons in a row.
Allison hopes his younger players watched and learned from the elder ones.
“I believe for the program our seniors took great leadership roles with our younger guys, not just the underclassmen on varsity but also with our JV and freshman kids,” Allison said. “I truly hope they were paying attention to the work and dedication to the team these seniors put in over the past four to five years. They were willing to do what it took to be successful.”
DCG – 000000003 – 3 2 4
Fairfield – 000000000 – 0 3 1
Hietpas (FF): 8 IP, H, BB, 8 K, 0 ER
Baker (DCG): 9 IP, 3 H, BB, 10 K, 0 ER
Class 3A State – Final Scores (07/29)
Dallas Center-Grimes 3, Fairfield 0
Sergeant Bluff-Luton 2, Algona 1
Waverly-Shell Rock 3, Solon 1
Davenport Assumption 8, Harlan 7