When they entered the 2019 State tournament, one year removed from a class 2A State championship, they knew they were facing some stronger challenges.
Their 2018 championship had come in class 2A, but in 2019 they played in class 3A. Sure, they made the tournament, but the upgrade in class would prove to be too much. The Big Reds weren’t able to defend their 2018 title. Ever since then they have been hungry to defend their 2018 title in class 2A. This year the Big Reds are trying to get the title defense they never quite had.
They started in a positive way by winning 10-0 in five innings over New Hampton in the quarterfinal round.
All of the damage was done in the first two innings by the Big Reds. They were able to score three runs in the first inning and seven in the second.
“These guys can swing the bats,” Centerville head coach Ryan Hodges said. “For some reason we are able to get the bats swinging really well in the month of July. We had two weeks to prepare for this run, and it has really benefitted us.”
The Big Reds were able gain four hits in the opening inning which brought in three runs. The most memorable of the runs came from third baseman Korey Shondel who sent a pitch flying to the right-center field gap for a stand-up RBI double. The other two runs in the first inning came off a New Hampton error when the throw to first was off target.
In the bottom of the second the powerful Centerville bats were able to once again come alive as three of the first four batters collected a hit. Second baseman Kellen Johnson provided the fireworks when he hit a double over the left fielders head for two RBI as the runs poured in for the Big Reds.
After scoring seven runs in the second inning the Big Reds had 10 runs, and neither team would score, or even threaten for the rest of the game, which ended in five innings due to the mercy rule.
“Two weeks out from the post season I saw a switch flip with the team,” Hodges said. “We talk about it all the time, being able to flip that switch. With the kids that we have on this team who have been able to play in big games they know how to flip that switch and they know how to keep the momentum going.”
For the Big Reds the win is a way to heal some of the wounds of tournaments past.
“We have a little unfinished business when we weren’t able to defend our State title in 2018,” Hodges said. “We had to go up to 3A and then we were right on the cusp of making the tournament last year when we were back in 2A. The guys have responded really well. They are really feeding off the opportunity to defend their title.”
Team: 1 2 3 4 5 R H E
New Hampton 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 3
Centerville 3 7 0 0 X 10 8 0
Brady Kauzlarich 2-3, 2 runs scored
Merrick Matthews 1-3, RBI, run scored
Otis Williams 1-3, RBI, run scored
Korey Shondel 1-2, RBI, run scored
Brody Tuttle 1-2, 2 runs scored
Kellen Johnson 1-3, 2 RBI
Esaias Sabin 1-2, run scored
Drake Wemark 1-1, two walks
Nathan O’Donnell 1-3
Cael Leistikow 1-2
Merrick Matthews (W) 2.2 IP, 1 H, 2 BB, 3 K
Conner Rochford (L) 1 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 5 ER