DES MOINES — Five times after scoring a first inning run against the second ranked team in the state, Albia appeared to get the one extra run they would need to pull off an upset in their return to the Class 2A State Baseball Tournament after an 11-year absence.
But all five times, second-ranked North Polk stonewalled the Blue Demons and kept the long, tense 2A state quarterfinal finale going until it hit historic numbers late Monday night at Principal Park. In fact, it would not be until the game hit a record-tying 13th inning that the Comets would finally snap the 1-1 tie they forged in the fourth with Albia as Clay Cory scored on a Grant Schiltz sacrifice fly after doubling to right to lead off an inning only Lansing, Kee and Bancroft, St. John’s in 1978 had ever seen before at the Iowa High School State Baseball Tournament.
That run would hold up as just enough as the Comets held off Albia’s upset bid that started in the opening inning and continued right through the 13th. Finally, after throwing out Gabe Gravert at home following his one-out triple for the second out of the inning and forcing out Griffin Osing at second, North Polk survived the longest state tournament game time-wise as the Comets took a 2-1, three-hour and 35-minute marathon that finally ended 20 minutes before midnight.
“It was a terrific, terrific ballgame,” Albia head coach Boyd Brittan said after leading his team into a historic night that doubled as his team’s first-ever game played at Principal Park. “I’m not sure North Polk isn’t the best team in the entire state of Iowa. We gave them everything we had out there.”
“It was pretty cool to get Albia back here to a state tournament,” Albia junior Victor Sanders said after taking the tough loss after coming in to throw the final four innings of relief after senior Ethan Gray pitched a state-required maximum nine full innings in his state tournament start. “The last time Albia played here, I think I was six years old. It’s pretty cool to say you’re part of the second team ever to bring the program up here and play on this stage.”