Iowa Mennonite wears crown of district champion

By Doug Brenneman, JOURNAL Sports


NEW LONDON -- There is a set of train tracks that carry trains past the New London baseball field.

Iowa Mennonite School?s substitute assistant baseball coach Marcus Miller told his players whenever there?s a train, good things happen for IMS.

There must have been the biggest, baddest train in the world going past in the bottom of the seventh inning of Saturday?s Iowa High School Athletic Association Class 1A District 10 game between IMS and Notre Dame.

With two outs and the tying run on base and the winning run at the plate, IMS center fielder Isaiah Swantz snagged a sinking liner out of the air to end the game and give IMS a 6-5 win and the crown of district champions.

The IMS faithful held their breath until Swantz rose from the ground with his glove in the air to show all the amazing catch he had made.

While the game was close throughout, IMS coach Danny Hershberger admitted to his heart beating faster at that one particular moment.

?Yes, probably on that last play. I guess we had to make it exciting. It was a great play by Isaiah to come up with the ball there. A huge play for us and really exciting for everyone,? the coach said.

It was an instant replay of a catch he had made just an inning earlier.

?Both of the ones that I laid out for in center field, I did not see them off of the bat,? Swantz said. ?So I was a little slow to get to them. Thank God that I am athletic enough to make a play like I did.?

Swantz played first base until a change of pitchers sent him to the outfield. Earlier, he fielded a ball at first base, dropped it, went to the ground to recover it and dove to tag the base just in time for the out.

?I had just struck out and I wasn?t in my head right so I missed it, but I knew I had to get the out,? Swantz said. ?So I just tried the hardest I could, dove for the ball and went for the base.?

IMS had taken a 4-0 lead on a hit batter, three walks, two wild pitches, an error and a hit, chasing Notre Dame?s starting pitcher in the first inning after six batters.

The first pitch of the game sent Cole Ours to first base when he was hit. Ours would steal second base and eventually score. He scored again in the sixth inning. After being walked, his hustle helped him as he went from first to third on a simple groundout and scored what would be the sixth and deciding run of the game on Eli Ours? sacrifice fly.

?When I get on base I always try to steal second, so I can get around and score on Trevor (Leyden) and Eli hits,? he said. ?I was stealing so I was basically already at second and figured I would just keep going to third.?

He didn?t have a hit but his on-base percentage was .600, reaching base three times, getting two steals and scoring two runs.

?Cole is just a heads up, smart baseball player,? Hershberger said. ?He has been playing varsity for four years. He knows how to use his speed to his advantage. That was just a real heads-up play by him.?

Notre Dame scored twice in the first inning off IMS starter Drew Blauvelt. IMS got the third out when catcher Blake Bontrager nailed a pinch runner trying to steal second.

Reggie Borntrager gave IMS a 5-2 lead in the top of the third inning when he led off with a single, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Jacob Boller?s single.

Notre Dame answered with a run in the bottom of the third, but Bontrager again ended the Nikes? inning, this time gunning down a runner trying to steal third base.

?You have to credit their defense,? Notre Dame coach Jeff Klein said. ?Tip your hat to them. We did not deserve to win, they did.?

Blauvelt threw five innings and walked one (the first batter he faced), hit one batter, allowed three hits and struck out one.

?He wasn?t perfect, but did enough to get the job done, which is all we asked of him,? Hershberger said.

Borntrager left centerfield to pitch the final two innings. He got three fly outs in the sixth, but hit a batter and gave up two singles, two wild pitches and two runs in the seventh.

?Reggie did a great job of just competing,? Hershberger said. ?He did a great job getting the save for us.?

IMS improves its record to 16-9 and advances to the Substate 5 final. Notre Dame ends the year at 14-16.

?It feels really good to be the district champ,? Hershberger said. ?It has been a long week. We played some really good teams this week, so it feels really good to be where we are at right now.?

Another good team will be the opponent Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Washington for the right to go to state. Lisbon won District 9 and has a 33-0 record.