DES MOINES —
“I guess it’s also pretty cool to be a part of history. I just wish we could have been a part of a 3-2 history-making win instead of a 2-1 history-making loss.”
Albia had plenty of chances, however, to simply be a part of a 2-1 upset win that would have sent the Blue Demons into the state semifinals in a memorable fashion. In fact, if not for a dropped two-out fly ball by left fielder Hugh Sinclair, Gray may have pitched Albia to a 1-0 shutout win after scoring in the first inning on a Brett Leshen double that saw the relay throw hit Leshen at second to allow the Albia ace hurler to score in the opening frame.
Tied at 1-1 in the sixth, the Blue Demons first two chances to take the lead went by the boards on back-to-back plays as Bryce Leshen’s single with two runners on seemed like it would bring home Osing from second before a strong throw Reed Smith from left easily gunned down the Albia third baseman for the second out. After moving up to third on the play, Sanders took his turn to score the go-ahead run moments later on a wild pitch, but amazingly was also thrown out as the ball caromed right back to North Polk catcher Grant Lang who flipped back to Jake Hadaway for the final out.
Hadaway would strike out 11 batters on the night before giving way to Lang, who added seven more strikeouts of his own over the next seven innings. However, Albia had more chances to make Lang the losing pitcher.
After Sanders got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the top of the 10th, Brett Leshen and Griffin Osing reached with two outs to give Albia a chance again to pick up a walk-off win. Gravert seemed to deliver that walk-off hit with a smash to right. Leshen headed home with the winning run, but another strong throw by Russell Greene gave Grant Schiltz plenty of time to catch and tag the Albia junior for the final out of the frame.