MONTICELLO - It wasn’t too long ago when any game that went past the fifth inning was considered a moral victory for the Anamosa baseball program.
The Raiders struggled for years to be competitive on the diamond, and while the losses piled up on Anamosa baseball coach Bryan McCray this past week, the progress he’s been seeing has him, and his players, excited for the future.
“The guys get it,” said McCray, as his team jumped to an early lead at Monticello Monday, June 17, only to lose late succumbing to a tough 6-5 setback at the hands of the rival Panthers in the first game of their Tri-Rivers Conference twinbill.
“We’re getting closer and closer to becoming a team that can close out games like this one at Monticello. Right now, we’re just not quite there yet, and while it’s frustrating, everyone is seeing the progress we’ve made. We’re right there, so close.”
Grahm Humpal, Walker Marsh, Eli Lehrman, Nolan McLean and Sam Wilt all crossed the plate in a huge five-run Raider top of the third that had Monticello fans stunned.
Unfortunately, it would be all the runs Anamosa (6-16, 3-9) would score in the game.
The hosts answered with two runs in the bottom of the third then scored what proved to be the game winners in the sixth plating four to win the game by a single run.
“A lot of the mistakes we’re making right now is because of our youth,” McCray said. “Both physical and mental mistakes. We need to be able to take a punch in the mouth and keep going and come back, and right now we struggle doing that. Again, I’m completely confident we’ll get there, but right now it’s tough.”
Lehrman, Jake Jess and Humpal all powered an eight-hit Raider offense coming up with two hits each while Seth Schoon got the start on the mound and tossed a complete game 10-hitter striking out two Monticello batters.
The nightcap saw a four-run Panther third inning lead the hosts to a 6-0 triumph over the Raiders.
“We just got beat in this one,” McCray said. “We made Monticello earn everything, so we didn’t beat ourselves, they just hit the ball and we didn’t.”
Panther pitching held Anamosa bats to a mere two hits.
The Raiders returned to their WaMaC roots Tuesday, June 18, falling short in a pair of tight contests at Benton Community.
“I was really proud of the way we hit the ball, in both games actually,” said McCray, as McLean and Wilt each drilled home runs in a 7-5 setback in the opener.
“I was also happy with the way we responded to losing a lead in the first game, too. We led early, lost it and then Nolan gave us the lead right back. Now, we just have to learn how to close these games out.”
Anamosa plated two second inning runs before Wilt blasted his first career home run in the top of the third to put the Raiders up 3-0.
After the Bobcats plated three of their own in the bottom half, McLean gave the visitors the lead yet again with a two-run home run that cleared the center field wall.
Benton Community would have the final say however, plating four runs in the bottom of the sixth to claim the two-run victory.
Of the Raiders four total hits in the game, three went for extra bases as Humpal added a second inning double.
Alex Shover tossed the game’s first 5.1 innings on the hill and allowed nine hits and three earned runs while striking out five Bobcat batters before Lehrman came in for the final two-thirds of an inning.
“I put Eli in a bad spot,” said McCray, as Lehrman issued three walks and allowed a hit during his stint on the hill.
“I had him come into the game without any notice and he just wasn’t ready. I’ll take the blame for this one. The kid did the best he could under the circumstances.”
Anamosa jumped to a quick lead in the nightcap as well, leading 5-0 before Benton Community rallied yet again in the late innings to claim a wild 11-8 final.
“This was a case where our defense really let us down,” said McCray, as five errors led to 10 unearned Bobcat runs.
“We’re hitting the ball, and hitting it well, but we need to put all the facets of the game together all at the same time to close these games out with wins instead of losses. Once we get that mental aspect of the game down and realize that we can finish games as well or better than how we start them, we’ll really start to see our win total grow pretty quickly.”
Lehrman, McLean and Trae Klatt all scored in a three-run top of the first before Humpal crossed the plate in the second and Wyatt Bickford in the third.
The Bobcats answered scoring six straight runs, four coming in the bottom of the fifth taking a 6-5 lead.
But the Raiders had an answer of their own when Wilt scored in the sixth thanks to a bases loaded walk by Bickford, knotting the score at 6-6.
It wouldn’t stay tied for long however.
Benton Community blew the game open plating five runs in the bottom half, though Anamosa did not go down without a fight as Humpal and Lehrman both scored in the seventh.
Jess powered a nine-hit Raider offense going 3-for-5 while Lehrman and Humpal tallied two hits each.
The road show continued for the Raiders at Mid-Prairie Thursday, June 20, where another early lead was lost in what ended as a 6-3 setback against the Golden Hawks.
“Eli threw a great game and gave us every opportunity to win,” McCray said. “His change up was phenomenal and we were able to get some early runs for him, too, we just couldn’t hang on, again.”
Marsh and McLean each crossed the plate in a two-run top of the first, but the hosts rallied plating a single run in the second before a huge three-run third proved to be the difference.
“Again, we made some youthful mistakes that came back to haunt us,” said McCray, as only two of Mid-Prairie’s six total runs were earned.
“I’m proud of this team. Everyone is working hard and our record is not indicative of the kind of ball that we’ve been playing.”