Having a plan in place for their class 2A district semi-final in Dyersville Tuesday, July 13, all the Anamosa baseball team needed to do was go out and execute it against a talented Cascade team the Raiders had tangled with just a little over a week earlier.
In the end, that plan would be easier said than done.
“Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the opponent,” said Anamosa baseball coach Bryan McCray, as his team was handed a tough season-ending 7-0 setback at the hands of the Cougars, a program with extensive playoff experience and success.
“That’s what we had to do with Cascade. They got the job done and held our offense in check all game long and made the plays that we didn’t. Our rough first inning certainly didn’t set a very good tone either.”
Sam Wilt drew a two-out walk to get an Anamosa runner on base in the top of the first, but when Cascade pitcher Eli Green ended the frame recording a strikeout, the Cougar offense went to work putting up a huge four-run bottom of the first that the Raiders would not be able to overcome.
“I’m not sure what happened there in that bottom of the first,” McCray said. “We came in ready and confident with Sam on the mound, but just struggled to do the simple things and good teams like Cascade will take advantage, and they certainly did.”
After getting the opening hitter of the game to ground out, Cougar batters reached base six consecutive times, keyed by three huge Raider errors.
“We made some mistakes there in the first and gave them some runs,” Wilt said. “It happens sometimes. We just picked a bad time to have it happen to us in a district playoff game, but we’ll learn from this and come back and be better prepared when we get in this situation again next year.”
Jack Menster got the rally started for Cascade, the home team on the scoreboard, ripping a one-out double before Green reached with a walk. After Kaleb Topping reached on a Raider error, the Cougars had their first run when Menster crossed the plate.
They were just getting started.
A wild pitch allowed Green to cross the plate putting the Cougars up 2-0 before Tanner Simon singled to get two more Cascade batters on base as Cade Rausch followed with a double scoring Topping.
Another Anamosa error plated the fourth Cascade run of the inning when Simon scored before Wilt was finally able to work his way out of the jam getting Weber to ground out to mercifully end the inning.
“When you have innings like that, they seem to take forever,” McCray said. “It almost seemed like every mistake we could make we did make in that inning. But what we really needed to do was come back and at least get a run in the top of the second. Try and regain a little momentum, and we just struggled doing that all night long, and Cascade pitcher Eli Green was the reason why.”
Green had a shutdown inning in the second, setting the Raiders down 1-2-3 before Eli Lehrman ripped Anamosa’s first hit of the contest in the third tallying a two-out single.
“I was a little surprised we weren’t able to push any runs across in this game, because we usually score, and score a lot,” Wilt said. “But Green is a good pitcher, and he was in control most of the night. We just picked the wrong time to have an off day.”
The Raiders were able to get another hit off Green in the top of the fourth when Nolan McLean ripped a one-out single before Jake Jess singled in the fifth followed by a Ky Kaufmann walk, which allowed an Anamosa runner to reach second base for the first time in the game.
“Honestly, it wasn’t like we were bad on offense, Green was just too good,” McCray said. “We did put some good wood on the baseball, but when we did, we hit it right at them. It was just one of those days, which is a tough way to end what was a very good season for us.”
Down 7-0 in the top of the seventh after the Cougars plated a single run in the third and two more in the fifth, Jared Nelson kept fleeting Anamosa hopes alive coming through with a lead-off single, but Cascade relief pitcher Jack Carr responded getting the next three Raider batters to record outs, the final two coming by strikeout.
“The kids were upset after the game, which I was very happy to see,” McCray said. “It showed they care, that they want to be here and want this program to be successful. They’ve put in the time and done everything I could ask for, and were rewarded with a very good season, one where they were able to do some things that haven’t been done for quite some time.”
Wilt worked five innings on the mound allowing five Cascade hits and four earned runs while striking out seven. Jack Sellnau came in and worked the bottom of the sixth in impressive fashion striking out two of the three batters he faced.
“I thought Sam threw a great game, and deserved a better fate,” McCray said. “He hit 88 miles-per-hour on his fastball in the second inning and Cascade struggled making hard contact against him most of the game. Only two of their base hits were legitimately hit hard, the rest were just them being able to find holes.”
The game also ended the career for McLean, one of two Anamosa senior starters (with Trae Klatt), who wasn’t quite ready to turn in his uniform just yet.
“I’m not a big post-game talker,” McCray said. “With these guys, I don’t need elegant speeches, but I just told the boys thank you for everything. I feel we’re much better than a .500 team and just felt gratitude for everything that gave me and the program.
“When we got home though and were putting the equipment away, Nolan came up to me and asked if he could hit one more time. He’s helped make this a special place, and he’s helped bring the Anamosa baseball program back to one that is a legitimate threat to win any game against any opponent. That wasn’t the case a few years ago. It is now, and this senior class is a big reason why.”
The Raiders, one of the most prolific offenses in all of class 2A leading the state in home runs (22), doubles (92) and total bases (484), close the 2021 campaign with a 20-20 overall record.
“It hasn’t really hit me that my high school career is over, I guess because I’m still going to be able to play next season,” said McLean, who will join the Kirkwood Community College baseball program next spring.
“It’s been an amazing run though. The last five years have flown by, and we’ve accomplished so much. When I started here, we struggled to score runs and win games. McCray came in and changed the culture for baseball at Anamosa, and even with me graduating, I know there are great things ahead for this program.”