Des Moines East’s Colby Carmichael would drive by Principal Park each day, gazing out at the home of the state baseball tournament.
Just two years ago, the stadium, which sits just a short distance away from the East campus, seemed like it could be light years away.
Carmichael and the third-ranked Scarlets will end a state baseball tournament drought that has lasted more than a decade when they take the field for Wednesday’s 2 p.m., Class 4-A quarterfinal.
“I cross a bridge every day and I can always see the lights, and I’m always thinking to myself what it would be like to play there and all that stuff,” Carmichael said. “I guess you could say my dream is finally coming true.”
East-side pride will invade the baseball state tournament for just the fifth time in school history and the first time since 1998.
Today’s showdown with Davenport North (23-15) comes just two seasons after the Scarlets struggled to one of their worst seasons in recent memory, finishing 13-23 with a loss to Valley in substate play.
“You could tell that we were overmatched and weren’t ready to compete with a team like Valley two years ago,” East coach Brian Luft said.
Hope for the future was hard to find afterward.
“I’m not going to lie. Two seasons ago, I thought it was going to be a long four years at East High,” Carmichael said. “But we were young, and we all stuck to it.”
The Scarlets have steadily improved, winning 25 games last season. Players that began their careers at East as youngsters have quickly grown and matured.
“The 13-23 was kind of a rebuilding year for us,” Luft said. “I think we started three freshmen and an eighth-grader on that team. Now, they’re all playing for me still.”
The team is excelling around those players now. East has a 36-4 record this season behind an offense that is hitting .361 and a pitching staff with a 1.84 ERA.
And after being denied by the Tigers of a state tournament bid in back-to-back seasons, the Scarlets returned the favor by beating No. 5 Valley in last week’s substate final.
“It’s whipped cream on top of the dessert,” Carmichael said.
But there is more work to be done for the Scarlets, who have won nine out of their last 10 games. Just being at state isn’t good enough.
They’re already setting their sights on the school’s first baseball title since a 1980 championship in Class 2-A.
“We’re going to enjoy being out there, but we’re also going to be out there for the same reason as (No. 1 and the reigning state champs) Ankeny,” Carmichael said. “We want to win the state tournament.”
Luft said he can see the confidence growing with every victory.
“Now, the kids think they’re going to win every game that they step on the field,” Luft said.