Hot start not enough for VBC

Van Buren County's Jonah Heckenberg comes up throwing after scooping a ground ball at short stop. (Andy Krutsinger/The Union)
Van Buren County's Jonah Heckenberg comes up throwing after scooping a ground ball at short stop. (Andy Krutsinger/The Union)

DONNELLSON — It looked like there might be some magic in the air for the Van Buren County baseball team on Tuesday night, but a midgame rally from Central Lee sent the Warriors home with a 9-6 loss in the district semifinals.

The Warriors came out of the gates hungry. VBC loaded the bases with nobody out against Central Lee starter Jadon Hawk, who came into the night without giving up an earned run this season. The Warriors capitalized with an RBI single by Casey Yochum and an RBI fielder’s choice from Tony Davidson. VBC plated one more on a double steal and it was 3-0 early.

Van Buren starter Ryan Wolf pitched a scoreless bottom of the first, and that allowed VBC to tack on a fourth run on a Treyton Bainbridge RBI single in the second. After one and a half innings, the four-win Warriors were looking strong against the 9-1 Hawks.

“We learned as the season went along that we’ve got to take the ballgame to them and not let it come to us,” Van Buren head coach Chad Scott said. “The last couple games, I think we’ve done it. We just didn’t have enough tonight to hold on.”

Central Lee stormed back with four runs in the top of the second to knot the game up at 4-4. Davidson came through in the top of the third to give the Warriors a 5-4 lead, but the wheels began to fall off in the bottom of the inning. Central Lee took advantage of a handful of Warrior miscues to put up four runs in their half of the third and take an 8-5 lead.

Despite coming in with the bases loaded and nobody out in the third, Treyton Bainbridge pitched strong in relief. After their big third inning, Central Lee would only muster one run the rest of the game, giving the Warriors a chance to win.

The Warriors had one more rush in them. Jonah Heckenberg got ahold of a pitch off the arm of Central Lee reliever Dylan Stuecker, and sent a bomb to left field for a solo home run. Later in the inning, the Warriors had the potential go-ahead runner at the plate, but stranded two on base and the Hawks led 8-6.

Central Lee added one more run on a ground-rule double in the bottom of the sixth. VBC had three hard-hit balls in the seventh, but Stuecker pitched a 1-2-3 inning, and the Hawks advanced on to host Mediapolis on Saturday.

“Even though we lost tonight, I feel like we left everything on the field,” said Coach Scott. “That’s the way we have to approach every game.”

Van Buren finished the season 4-8, with wins over Davis County, Highland, Danville and West Burlington.