Van Buren comes back to win in extras
DES MOINES – With their backs to the wall, Van Buren made an improbable comeback to score three runs in the bottom of the seventh against Don Bosco and later win the game in extra innings in the first round of the state baseball tournament Saturday at Principal Park in Des Moines.
Van Buren (25-5) will play the third ranked and second-seeded Van Meter Bulldogs at 2 p.m. Thursday. Fourth ranked and sixth-seeded Don Bosco ends its season at 28-7.
Things did not look good for the Warriors as they trailed 5-2 and had only three more outs to work with. Luckily for the Warriors, they got plenty of help from a suddenly shaky Don Bosco defense.
Will Mertens led off the bottom of the seventh inning by reaching on an error by the shortstop. Garrett Saunders followed with a double to score Mertens and inch the Warriors at a little closer, making the score 5-3.
Robby Laughlin grounded out to second, which allowed Saunders to move to third. Robert Barker flied out to left field, which allowed Saunders to score but which also meant the Warriors still had one more run to score and now they would have to do it with two outs.
Van Buren refused to quit. Noah Whitten singled. Tyson Sprouse reached on an error by the other middle infielder, the second baseman. On the same play, the first baseman committed an error to allow Whitten to score and tie the game at five apiece.
Tanner Smith reached on yet another error by Don Bosco, which allowed pinch runner Nolan Lydolph to advance to third, but he was stranded there as Austin Bartholomew flied out to left.
Don Bosco committed four errors in the seventh, and its defensive troubles were far from over.
Don Bosco scared the Warriors in the top of the eighth when it led off the inning with a double, but that runner was gunned down at third on the next play. The Warriors escaped the threat and went into the bottom half of the inning with a chance to win the game.
The bottom of the eighth felt like déjà vu for both the Warriors and the Dons. Mertens, who led off the seventh by reaching on an error by the shortstop, once again reached on an error, again by the shortstop. Mertens was able to advance to second on the overthrow.
Saunders followed with a solid single, which put runners at the corners with no outs. Laughlin reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases for Barker.
Barker put his body on the line for the good of his ballclub. He “took one for the team” by getting hit by a pitch, which forced in Mertens and won the game for the Warriors.
Both teams got off to good starts offensively, scoring two runs apiece in the first inning. The pitchers settled down after that as neither one allowed a run for the next four innings.
The Dons broke through with three runs in the top of the six. Don Bosco used three straight hits from the heart of the order and capitalized on a Van Buren error to do the damage.
Tyler Backes doubled, Alex Bagby followed with a single, and Jake Hogan drove in the go-ahead run with a single to center. Bagby and Hogan each scored on the two-out error and the Dons took a 5-2 advantage into the seventh.
Laughlin pitched 2.1 shutout innings to end the game for Van Buren and earn his fourth win of the season. Sprouse pitched 5.2 innings and allowed five runs, three earned, on eight hits and no walks with two strikeouts.
Barker was 2-3 with three RBIs. Whitten went 2-2 with a run. Saunders was 2-4 with two runs and an RBI. Sprouse batted in a run. Laughlin went 1-5 with a run.