East Scarlets: All Gas, No Brakes on the Road to State
When Colby Carmichael’s first pitch of last night’s dramatic Substate final at Urbandale was drilled for a double the lanky southpaw might briefly have experienced a sinking feeling of deja vu. After all it was this same opponent, 5th rated WDM Valley, that eliminated Carmichael and his East High teammates from Substate action in each of the last two years, including a 3-0 defeat two years ago when he was the losing pitcher as a precocious freshman. But there weren’t many more where that hit came from.
Carmichael’s matured since then into his school’s all-time winningest pitcher and the team around him has grown up, too. Consequently, the third time ended up being the Scarlets’ charm versus their nemeses as their ace steadied and they rallied for a pulsating 4-2 win that advances them to the state tourney next week at Principal Park, #3 East’s first trip to state since 1998 when this bevy of talented juniors was still in diapers.
That leadoff double by Tanner Hinkle came around to score on a sacrifice bunt and a fielder’s choice groundout, producing a 1-0 Valley lead that lasted until the bottom of the 3rd. Lucas Roberts led off that frame with a ringing double to left-center and promptly scored the tying run when Malique Ziegler sizzled another two-bagger just inside the left-field line. Slick-fielding shortstop Conner Enochs then sacrificed Ziegler to third with one out. A fly ball from slugger Chino Alcala would have allowed the fleet-footed Ziegler to tag up and trot home with the lead run but Alcala went above and beyond what was called for when he went above and beyond the fence on a 1-2 pitch to give East a lead it never relinquished.
“It was a curveball,” #10 said of the pitch he blasted for his 10th, and golden, homer of this remarkable season. “I knew it was gone as soon as I hit it.”
Though East was never headed once it took the lead the rest of the game was hardly stress-free.
In the top of the 4th Valley pulled within one without benefit of a hit when a one-out walk came around to score courtesy of an error and a pair of passed balls.
In the bottom of the 5th Carmichael came to the plate with men at 2nd and 3rd and a chance to break the game open but he was caught looking to end the inning. Would he take that disappointment out to the mound with him for the top of the 6th?
A one-out walk followed by an error put the potential tying and go-ahead runs aboard. When Enochs slipped behind the lead runner, Jeremy Roehrick, at 2nd it looked like he and Carmichael had perfectly executed a pickoff to short-circuit the Tiger threat. But Roehrick was called safe. With two out he tried to score on a single to center but Ziegler scooped it up and fired a bullet to catcher Dillon Hernandez who was blocking the plate and slapped the tag on the sliding Roehrick whose reprieve on the near-pickoff perhaps shrank his lead enough to make the difference on the play at the plate.
East then added an insurance run on a sacrifice fly by Tyler Aswegan in the bottom of the 6th before Carmichael took the mound needing three more outs to punch his team’s ticket to the big ballpark downtown.
After getting the first of them he got ahead in the count on Hinkle before plunking him to bring up the tying run. When Hernandez briefly mishandled one of Carmichael’s curvaceous breaking balls Hinkle recklessly broke for 2nd where Hernandez gunned him down with a perfect peg to the sure-handed Enochs. Carmichael then finished with the flourish of a called third strike on the game’s last batter, his 5th strikeout against only three hits allowed.
There may be no cheerleaders in summer baseball but a spontaneous pandemonium that reverberated all the way across town to the eastside ensued in the middle of the diamond and the packed rooting section of the bleachers as the Scarlet squad hurled their gloves and caps into the air like mortar boards at commencement before dog-piling into a knot of pure schoolboy joy. They’d just graduated to the state tournament with an eye-popping overall record of 37-4. Or, in the parlance of the team’s “all gas – no brakes” mantra, that’s 37 gassers against only 4 taps on the brake.
East now moves on to face Davenport North at 2:00 on July 31 in the state quarterfinals, just three more wins shy of the state title.
Some observers forecast that 2014 would be the Scarlets’ year and with good reason. With the lone exception of Hernandez, they start all juniors. But Head Coach Brian Luft saw no reason to wait.
“I told them from our first practice, let’s get it done this year,” he said. Besides their plentiful talent, his players obviously listen to their coach.
NOTE: For more information about the 2013 State Baseball Tournament, visit the Iowa High School Athletic Association.