It’s not often in life when things play out exactly the way you want them to, especially in the field competition.
Saturday, July 10, however, was one of those rare occasions for Anamosa senior Nolan McLean, as he and his Raider baseball team hosted Clayton Ridge in a class 2A district quarter-final.
“Playing my last home baseball game and having it be in the playoffs made for a very special night,” said McLean, who not only powered the Anamosa team to a convincing 10-0, six-inning rout over the War Eagles, but provided some memories that will last a lifetime.
“It’s crazy how fast my baseball career has gone here at Anamosa. It really didn’t hit me until my first at-bat that this was the last time I would play on my home field, and I really wanted to do something extra special.”
McLean got that opportunity in the bottom of the sixth, and took advantage.
Anamosa (20-19) led 9-0 and after Sam Wilt opened the frame reaching on a two-base Clayton Ridge error, the stage was set for McLean to end it in walk-off style.
“I couldn’t have scripted this ending any better,” said McLean, as the senior delivered a single up the middle scoring Wilt and walked off the field with the rest of his teammates for the final time at home with a huge playoff victory, the first post-season triumph for the program since 2011 when the Raiders defeated Clear Creek-Amana 4-1.
“It’s hard to put into words what just being able to play this game at home means to me, and our team. We worked hard to get this opportunity. The last few years have been tough for Anamosa baseball. We’ve always had to face some of the best teams in the state on the road, and in our very first post-season game. This year we had a good season and were rewarded for it. As far as my home career goes, this was exactly how I wanted to end it.”
Anamosa junior Eli Lehrman had a pretty special night of his own as well, tossing a brilliant six-inning no-hitter while striking out six Clayton Ridge batters.
“The coaches gave me a good game plan and I stuck to it,” said Lehrman, who threw just 69 pitches in the contest while just missing a perfect game allowing a mere one War Eagle base runner, a fourth-inning lead-off walk.
“I threw a lot of fastballs and was able to get weak contact from the Clayton Ridge hitters pretty much all game long. The second time through their line-up I started mixing pitches up a little more and by the third inning I knew that the no-hitter was in play and there in my brain. I just wanted to keep throwing and keep doing what I was doing to finish this thing off.”
Anamosa broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the second when a Devin Brophy triple plated teammate Trae Klatt, who reached on an error to open the inning.
The hosts tacked on five more in the third taking advantage of War Eagle pitching wildness as Lehrman, Grahm Humpal, Wilt, McLean and Brophy all crossed the plate to break the game open.
Klatt walked and scored in the fifth before a Lehrman double scored Jake Jess and Ky Kaufmann giving the hosts a 9-0 advantage.
“Eli was absolutely amazing,” said Raider baseball coach Bryan McCray. “He got a lot of ground balls and was in complete control of the game from the opening pitch. It was nice to see us win a game when our offense wasn’t exactly firing on all cylinders, too. We found other ways to score runs than by just bombing the baseball out of the ballpark. The wind was blowing in and we found creative ways to score.”
McLean led the five-hit Raider offense coming through with two singles as the win was the 20th of the year, the most for the Anamosa baseball program since the 2006 team went 25-14.
The Raiders advance to the 2A district semi-final round against Cascade in Dyersville Tuesday, July 13.