DES MOINES —
Instead, a chopper back up the middle off Smith’s bat found its way perfectly to Newman second baseman Hall, who just happened to be perfectly headed right to second base. Hall gloved the ball, hit the bag for the force and threw to first to easily get Smith for a rally-killing double play before taking over on the mound in the seventh to close out the state championship.
“If that ball rolls an inch this way or an inch that way, it might have been a different play and the difference in the game,” Smith said. “I hit it right up the middle. I chopped it a little, but it seemed like it went right at the bag and it just happened the second baseman was right there because we had guys on. We did what we could do there. They just made a good play on that ball.”
For Scott, that play ultimately summed up the difference in who would walk out on this day with the Class 1A State baseball title and who would not.
“Baseball’s a game of inches. They (Mason City Newman) takes advantage of those inches and they tighten the screws down on you,” Scott said. “That’s what good ball clubs do.”
So while this summer, it is top-ranked Mason City Newman that heads back north with a 28-6 record and a fourth state title to put in the school’s trophy case, it is Van Buren that will head back home to southeastern Iowa with state championship expectations for a program that had been looking for so long just to play on the state tournament stage. Every player returns from a Warrior team that began the year with fans not quite knowing what to expect from a program that has had so much success over the recent years.