Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – The City High baseball team had plenty of motivation heading into Wednesday’s Class 4A substate final against Linn-Mar.
A trip to the state tournament for the first time since 2003 was on the line, but there was more to it than that.
The City High players and coaches were also on a mission to win for assistant coach Skyler Moss, who is battling against lung cancer.
And it was mission accomplished in dramatic fashion as the Little Hawks scored the winning run in the bottom of seventh inning to edge Linn-Mar 4-3 at Mercer Park, and with Moss in attendance.
“That was really special, him being here to watch,” said senior Kolbe Schnoebelen, whose infield single scored Garrett Bormann with the winning run. “It’s just really inspirational. How he’s battled is just really special.
“Him getting diagnosed with cancer was pretty hard. But we know he’s a fighter and that he’s going to fight.”
This season has been hard on the Little Hawks, who entered Wednesday’s game with a 10-8 record.
In addition to Moss’s illness, the fears and uncertainties caused by the highly contagious Coronavirus has made the season an emotional roller coaster filled with tremendous highs and devastating lows.
But the players and coaches persevered and will now be rewarded with a trip to the state tournament next week at Principal Park in Des Moines.
“It’s unbelievable,” said City High coach Brian Mitchell. “I just feel like for years we have had it where we just couldn’t get over that obstacle. And it’s just unbelievable what those kids have done through everything. And I’m just happy for them and just for the opportunity to play at Principal Park.
“We’ve been working a long time. Coaches, you can see the emotion. We’ve put a lot of time into this program and we’ve worked so hard and these kids have worked so hard for years and years. This started a long time ago.”
Wednesday’s game didn’t start well for City High as ace sophomore pitcher Cade Obermueller was lifted after facing just five batters and getting one out in the top of first inning. Obermueller struggled with his control and with fielding bunts.
The score was 3-0 when Mitchell inserted senior Reese Hayden, who started the game at second base.
Hayden would go on to allow just two hits and zero runs over 6 2/3 innings.
“Reese knows how to throw strikes,” Mitchell said. “Cade can be dynamic, but we just felt like he didn’t have it. With bunt coverages, he was racing and we just felt like we needed a senior that could be calm and that’s what Reese kind of brings to the table.”
Hayden knew there was a chance he could pitch in relief, but he didn’t expect it to happen so quickly because Obermueller usually goes deep into games.
But there was a lot on the line in Wednesday’s game, so Mitchell didn’t hesitate to make a change.
“I was a little shocked to come in so early,” Hayden said. “But I’m always ready, and all I’ve got to do is throw strikes with the best defense in the state.”
City High answered Linn-Mar’s three runs in the first inning with three runs in the bottom of the frame. Sophomore shortstop Gable Mitchell, who is Brian Mitchell’s son, and the grandson of former Iowa wrestling coach Dan Gable, drove in two runs with a triple to deep right field.
City High’s seniors stood tall in Wednesday’s game with Hayden coming through in relief, with Schnoebelen getting the game-winning hit and with Bormann scoring the game-winning run after having stolen both second and third base.
Bormann led off the bottom of the seventh with a single, his third hit of the game.
The plan was to bunt him over to second base. But when that plan didn’t work, Bormann took it upon himself to reach second base.
He then saw a chance to steal third base and didn’t hesitate.
“After I didn’t advance (to second) I knew I had to take second base because I had to get into scoring position,” Bormann said. “And once I was on second base, the pitcher wasn’t really giving me any looks so I was like, I can take third.
“And then on a hit like that if he misses it and I’m on second base, I don’t score. So I knew I had to get to third and score right there.”
Schnoebelen’s game-winning hit bounced off the glove of Linn-Mar starting pitcher Carson Recker and that gave Bormann enough time to score from third.
“At first, I was like no, but then when he jumped up and it hit his glove, I was like, that’s game,” Bormann said. “I knew it was over with.”
The City High players rushed the field and were overcome by emotion as they celebrated their signature win.
“It’s huge. It’s huge,” Hayden said. “I can’t even put into words how much this means to us, our team, our coaches. It’s just huge.”
Linn-Mar 300 000 0 – 3 6 1
City High 300 000 1 – 4 9 1
W – Reese Hayden L – Carson Recker
3B – ICH: Gable Mitchell. L-M: Coy Sarsfield.