FAIRFIELD — Six straight hits with two outs in the third inning sparked Van Buren and broke open a tighter-than-expected battle with Winfield-Mount Union Thursday night in the Class 1A, District 8 baseball semifinals. The Warriors knocked out Wolves’ starter Travis Jones and never let the game get any closer, scoring five runs in the sixth to put away a 13-2 win early at the Fairfield baseball diamond.
“That’s one inning we saved right there,” Van Buren head baseball coach Chad Scott said after watching his team improve to 22-5 with the victory. “We know it’s not going to be this easy on Saturday night or, hopefully, on Tuesday night if we’re lucky enough to be playing for a spot at state. Saving an inning for our pitching and the strain on the rest of our team is definitely important at this time of year.”
Robert Barker scored three runs for the Warriors, who will face IMS on Saturday in Fairfield for the 1A, District 8 championship. Van Buren capped the regular season with a 14-5 win over the Kalona school just 11 nights earlier.
The Warriors weren’t the only Southeast Iowa Superconference south team to advance in 1A district baseball action Thursday. In Keota, Cardinal (17-11) rallied late to extend their season by scoring in the seventh against Pekin (13-12) to force extra innings before putting a pair of runs up in the eighth to advance to the Class 1A, District 9 title game.
That game was second only in dramatics to the other side of District 9, where North Mahaska (23-8) also needed to rally in their last at-bat before winning in extra innings to advance. Senior Beau Freeborn drilled a two-run game-tying home run in the bottom of the seventh with two outs to tie Montezuma at 7-7.
After the Braves stranded the bases loaded in the eighth, the Warhawks won the contest on a Chase Koehler RBI groundout. North Mahaska and Cardinal will meet Saturday night in Montezuma for the District 9 title at 7 p.m.
The winner of the game in Montezuma will play the District 10 champion. Second-ranked Twin Cedars will be in that game in Pleasantville after the 33-2 Sabers beat 16-4 Moulton-Udell 15-0 in four innings. The Sabers will face Pleasantville on the Trojans home field Saturday night at 7.