DES MOINES —
“Coach (Brittan) told me I was going if I saw the ball get into the outfield,” Leshen said of the play. “I saw Gabe get the ball into the outfield and I turned it on for home. It was a great throw. You’ve give them all the credit in the world.”
Two innings later, Leshen was poised to deliver the winning hit as Gray singled with two outs in the 12th and stole second base. A ground ball to second was bobbled and kicked away from one middle infielder, giving Gray an opening to try and score, but the perfect roll to the other Comet middle infielder allowed the shortstop, and former starting pitcher, Hadaway, to gun down Gray who tried but could not avoid being the fourth Blue Demon tagged out.
“I thought that ball had kicked away from the second baseman more than it did,” Leshen said. “That was the one that really surprised me.”
“Of all those plays, that’s probably the one I’d second guess myself on,” Brittan added. “I probably shouldn’t have sent the runner knowing that the ball didn’t get as far away as I was thinking it would.”
One inning later, North Polk (30-4) finally snapped the tie on Cory’s run, but Albia had one last chance to keep their upset hopes alive. Gravert, one of the three seniors to play in their only state tournament game Monday night, tripled into the left field corner to give the Blue Demons a runner in scoring position with one out.
Needing just to put the ball in play to tie it, Osing did just that. However, a grounder to Hadaway allowed the North Polk senior to make one more big throw home as Gravert was tagged out at home. The senior stayed down for a brief moment longer with frustration visible on his face as, moments later, a final groundball to second sent the second-ranked Comets to a matchup with Carroll Kuemper Thursday night in the 2A state semifinals while ending Albia’s season at 24-17.
“We went from a team that struggled to a 10-26 record last year to a team that more than doubled that total in wins this year,” Sanders said. “We’ve got a lot of great players coming back. This is only going to make us a better team going forward.”