Late-inning heroics send Cyclones back to title game
DES MOINES (July 28) -- For all of the dominant performances and 10-run blowouts during the course of a 36-win season, perhaps the true hallmark of this 2017 Harlan Community baseball team is the manner in which they respond when the chips are down and a game is on the line.
The Cyclones did it again Friday afternoon at Principal Park, answering Sioux City Bishop Heelan’s game-tying three-spot in the top of the sixth with three runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning and beating the Crusaders 6-3 in a Class 3-A state tournament semifinal.
Dillon Sears’ sacrifice fly and Ryan Doran’s ground-ball single both drove in runs during Harlan’s three-run sixth and freshman pitcher Connor Bruck worked around a two-out walk in the seventh to preserve the win for senior Joshua Cheek, who has now started on the mound in three consecutive state semifinal victories.
The top-ranked Cyclones (36-2) clinched their third straight trip to the 3-A title game and faced 2nd-ranked Davenport Assumption (40-5) on Saturday night (see separate story). Eighth-ranked Bishop Heelan, which also lost to HCHS at last year’s state tourney, finished 32-13.
The Cyclones are now 10-2 in games decided by three runs or less this year, including seven wins by one run. One of those came on May 26 when HCHS outlasted Heelan 8-7.
While a less experienced team might have panicked after letting a late three-run lead slip away at the state tournament, the Cyclones responded like a defending state champion should.
“That was really an unbelievable rally there in the bottom of the sixth,” said HCHS coach Steve Daeges. “We talked about it before the game. I said, ‘We may be down early. If we (are) we’ve got to keep playing hard through seven and don’t panic. If we get ahead early and they come back, don’t panic.’ (We) did a nice job of responding.”
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