Clarion-Goldfield's win over St. Edmond in a Class 2A?district final here on Saturday night was the biggest of the season for the Cowboys.
They're just hoping it isn't the last.
Head coach Jason Berning's 15-15 squad, which finished with a 5-13 record in the North Central Conference, strung together by far their most impressive seven-inning stretch of the season by stunning fourth-ranked St. Edmond at Rogers Park, 11-7.
Photo by Tom Vogt
Clarion-Goldfield’s Colby Ruiter scores ahead of a Matthew Bocken tag attempt on Saturday night at Rogers Park.
The Cowboys, who are now one win away from the school's first-ever state tournament appearance, will take on Forest City Tuesday night in Mason City in a substate final. Game time is set for 7 p.m.
The Gaels bow out at 22-9.
Berning has been through a lot of struggle with the Cowboys, but Saturday's victory - against an opponent that had 10-runned them twice during the regular season - proved well worth the wait.
CLARION-GOLDFIELD 11, ST. EDMOND 7
Clarion-Goldfield 223 002 2 - 11 8 1
St. Edmond 121 020 1 - 7 13 5
Matt Odland, Ryan Waters (4), Wyatt Sann (6) and Trenton Sann. Neil Flattery, Hank Crimmins (3), Nick Clark (7) and Matthew Bocken. 2B-CG: Dominic Brandt, Waters, Matt Odland; SE: Neil Flattery.
"This is a landmark win for our program,'' Berning said. "I'm so proud of these guys and the way they played.
"We hit the ball sharply and some good at-bats. Our guys came through, and scoring 11 runs against a terrific St. Edmond ballclub is impressive.''
Clarion-Goldfield had dropped 14-4 and 13-3 decisions to St. Edmond less than three weeks ago in a doubleheader at Rogers Park.
Saturday told a much different story.
"They played well,'' said SEHS?head coach Joe Shanks. "Offensively and deffensively, they did what they needed to do.
"We battled, but we just put ourselves into holes we couldn't dig out of.''
The Cowboys got to senior pitcher Neil Flattery early, connecting for five hits and six runs - including three doubles - in the first two innings alone.
"We kept good focus and had great at-bats,'' Berning said. "We got off to a good start, which is critical in a situation like this.''
St. Edmond out hit the Cowboys 13-8, but the Gaels struggled in the field, commiting five errors. Clarion-Goldfield, meanwhile, turned a sharp 5-4-3 double play in the first inning and another impressive twin killing in the fifth to stop a St. Edmond rally.
The Gaels had trimmed the deficit to 7-6 with runners at first and second and no one out in the fifth. Nick Clark hit a deep fly ball that was caught by Dominic Brandt in centerfield. Brandt then threw a rocket to third, gunning down a tagging St. Edmond baserunner.
"That was a huge play,'' Berning said. "We were in the danger zone. They cut into our lead and that play swung momentum back in our favor.''
Colby Ruiter later made a diving catch at the wall for another spectacular defensive effort.
The Cowboys tacked on two runs in the sixth and seventh to preserve the victory.
Trenton Sann was 2-for-4. Kirby Simmons scored three runs as a courtesy runner.
Matt Odland was 1-for-2 with three runs scored. Ruiter scored twice in the eighth spot in the lineup.
For the Gaels, Flattery was 4-for-5 with three RBI and a double. David Flattery was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI.
Aaron Chalstrom was 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored.
Matthew Bocken reached base three times, and pinch-runner Sam Kolacia scored twice.
It was the last action at St. Edmond for standout senior athletes Neil Flattery, Nick Clark and Nate Kolacia.
"They've done a lot for baseball and St. Edmond athletics as a whole,'' Shanks said. "Neil, Nick and Nate are outstanding athletes and great young men.
"They will be missed.''