3A State Preview
Playing well at the end of the season appears all a team needs to make it to the state baseball tournament.
Estherville Lincoln Central put together three solid games in its bid for the first state berth since 1987.
In round one of district play, two-run home runs by Marcus Stangl and Alex Arends along with a strong pitching performance by Matt Gruhlke helped ELC beat Spencer for the third time this season.
The Midgets needed help from the bottom of the batting order in rallying from a 2-1 deficit in the seventh against Storm Lake. ELC, which split with Storm Lake during the regular season, was down to its last out. A Tornado error followed by two hits from Jeremy Hunt and Chance Moore helped the Midgets to a 3-2 victory.
“It’s not how many hits you get, it’s when you get them,” ELC coach Chuck Fandel told the team, fans and parents at Thursday’s baseball banquet. Moore is batting .165 this season.
In the substate game, another quality pitching performance from Gruhlke, along with a few timely hits, helped ELC beat Sergeant Bluff-Luton 3-0.
Harlan’s road to state
ELC’s state tournament opponent, Harlan, had a different route to Principal Park in Des Moines.
The No. 2 Cyclones, who began the year 4-3, won 23 of its last 25 games.
In the first playoff game, they rallied from an early 3-0 deficit to win 9-3 over Glenwood.
In round two, Creston (10-26) proved a bigger challenge for Harlan than in a doubleheader earlier this month where the Cyclones pounded the Panthers 16-2 and 19-4.
This time, Harlan held a slim 5-3 lead heading into the seventh inning and went on to win 6-3. The Cyclones were helped by two solo home runs by Michael Bruck and they held Creston to just four hits.
In the substate game, Harlan again faced a team for the second time this season in Denison-Schleswig.
The Monarchs struggled defensively with four errors. Offensively, D-S came up with five hits with their lone run coming on a solo home run in the first inning.
Trying to replace seven seniors from 2007, a young ELC team always had a chance to win with Gruhlke or Keith Fandel on the mound. The two pitchers are a combined 18-4 this season.
Pitching 70 1/3 innings, Gruhlke (9-3) has given up just 40 hits while striking out 106 batters with 29 walks.
Fandel (9-1) has pitched 68 innings, giving up 71 hits with 78 strikeouts and 44 walks.
Hitting (in order)
Keith Fandel is batting .375, but leads the team in walks with 39 and hit-by-pitch (8) for an on base percentage of .549 as the leadoff batter. He also had nine doubles and two triples.
Alex Arends is batting .410 with 50 hits including 11 doubles and three home runs. and 32 RBI.
Matt Gruhlke leads the team with a .461 average including 12 doubles, four triples, seven home runs and 32 RBI. His on base percentage is .516.
Marcus Stangl is batting .362 with five doubles, four home runs and 25 RBIs.
Scott Schmidt is batting .358 with an on base percentage of .420. He has seven doubles, two triples and 15 RBI.
Cody Prather is batting .255 with an on base percentage of .339. He has 27 hits with five doubles, one home run and 10 RBI.
Jeremy Hunt is batting .242 with an on base percentage of .351. He has 16 hits with five doubles and a triple.
Chance Moore is batting .165 and has four doubles. Moore is second in walks with 16.
Justin Doyle is batting .157 with 15 hits, four doubles, a home run and 10 RBI. He has drawn 13 walks this season.
Also, Marcus Christensen has a .324 batting average with six doubles and 10 RBI.