High school baseball: Dowling survives Johnston, heads back to state

High school baseball: Dowling survives Johnston, heads back to state

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High school baseball: Dowling survives Johnston, heads back to state

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WEST DES MOINES, Ia. — Dowling Catholic outfielder Zach Coppola pumped his fist and breathed a sigh of relief Wednesday night after his team made the final out against Johnston.
It was the only opportunity Coppola and his teammates had to relax during a 6-5 win full of suspense, drama, and excitement.
The defending state champion Maroons advanced to their fourth consecutive state baseball tournament with a thrilling victory at George Cordaro Field.
“We just kept battling back,” Coppola said. “After they punched, we punched too.”
The sixth-ranked Maroons (32-10) qualified for their 16th summer state tournament.
It didn’t come easy.
The Dragons, who trailed 6-5 in the seventh, began their final threat by putting the first two batters of the inning on base.
But the threat died down when Johnston’s Jon Hankins was thrown out at third base trying to advance on a wild pitch.
Dowling Catholic catcher Jake DeBondt quickly retrieved the ball and fired it to third to beat Hankins, who tried going from second to third with no outs.
“If he doesn’t throw it right to that spot, we’re safe (at) first and third and nobody out in the last inning,” Johnston coach Michael Barta said. “That was a huge play.”
Dowling Catholic coach Tim O’Neill said he wasn’t surprised by the throw.
“He’s been doing that all year,” O’Neill said. “He’s one of the best defensive catchers in the state. Nobody really runs on him.”
Dowling Catholic reliever Joe Erickson got Conner Jacobsen to pop out for the second out and struck out Jeff Pavelka to strand Michael Kinning first and end the game.
Coppola and his teammates celebrated by grabbing the state tournament banner they had earned.
“We knew what we were in for,” Coppola said. “They’re a tough team.”
The Maroons took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on RBI singles by Coppola and Anthony Denkinger.
Johnston never went away, pulling within two runs in the third inning on an RBI single by Jacobsen.
DeBondt helped end another scoring threat in the fifth when he caught Travis Brenner trying to steal third for the first out of the inning.
Johnston began the inning by putting its first two hitters on base while trailing 4-2.
“We just made a couple of blunders that killed us,” Barta said.
After the game, Barta thanked each of his seniors.
“It definitely slipped away,” Barta said of the loss.
The Maroons graduated 10 starters from last season’s state championship team. O’Neill said he heard doubts during the offseason about whether the team could make it back to Principal Park.
He didn’t hear any Wednesday.
“We’ve always got a target on our back,” O’Neill said. “People didn’t think we’d be any good. Everybody except the people in our dugout and our coaches didn’t believe it.”
Johnston……….002 003 0–5 9 1
Dowling Cath….220 020 x–6 9 5
Leading hitters–J: Richman 2×3, Kinning 2×4, Jacobsen 2×4; DC: Denkinger 2×2, Driscoll 2×3, Stacy 2×3. W–Clemen. L–Larpenter. S–Erickson.

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High school baseball: Dowling survives Johnston, heads back to state
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