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Why not us?

Solon upsets No. 1 seed Wahlert
Solon’s Tyler Linderbaum slides safely into third during Solon’s 12-2 win over Dubuque Wahlert Tuesday. Linderbaum had three hits and scored three runs. (photo by Chris Umscheid)

DES MOINES– Well, why not?
Solon absolutely thumped the No. 1 seed in the opening round of the 3A baseball tournament Tuesday, advancing to a semifinal against Harlan (28-5) Friday at 1:30 p.m. at Principal Park in Des Moines.
The Spartans shelled Dubuque Wahlert, 12-2, in a game shortened to six innings by the mercy rule.
Solon jumped out to a first-inning lead right off the bat, but salted the game away with four-run spurts in the fifth and sixth innings. The Spartans loaded the bases with no outs in each of those innings.
“I’m surprised and I’m not surprised,” said Solon Head Coach Keith McSweeney after the game. “I’m surprised in the sense that we knew Wahlert was a quality team, well coached... But I’m not surprised in the sense that our guys are playing with a lot of confidence right now.”
The Spartans combined for 12 hits from seven different players and Solon pitcher Dillon Drake limited the Golden Eagles to only two hits, the first of which came in the bottom of the fourth.
“We knew we had to play the best game, and we went out and played our game, and that’s how baseball goes,” Drake said. “Our energy level has just skyrocketed in the postseason. We grew as a team, we’ve been working hard and that paid off.”
Drake helped his own cause and provided himself a 2-0 cushion with a two-run single in the top of the first after Patrick Maston singled and Tyler Linderbaum doubled.
The Golden Eagles threatened in the second inning, but Drake shook off a rough start.
A walk, a hit batsman and a catcher interference call loaded the bases with two outs, but Wahlert’s Alex Timp grounded out to end the inning.
The Golden Eagles stranded two runners in the second on another walk and another hit batter, but another groundout, one of 11 induced by Drake, allowed the Spartans to escape.
Drake said the early lead gave him some breathing room.
“It took a little bit of pressure off and I could just throw strikes and trust my defense,” he said.
Solon extended its lead in the top of the third, when Luke Ira dished up a leadoff single and advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Maston. Ira scored on a Linderbaum single, and Linderbaum reached second on the throw.
When Drake’s grounder went through the legs of Wahlert shortstop Judd White, Linderbaum came home to make it 4-0.
It stayed that way until the bottom of the fourth when the Golden Eagles would finally break into the score column.
With runners on second and third, Wahlert’s Jimmy McDermott lined a two-RBI single to cut the Solon lead in half.
“We overcame some early walks and hit batsmen, and had those two (catcher) interferences, but the guys persevered, and we worked around that and we picked each other up and had the big at-bats,” McSweeney said.
Some of those big at-bats came in the fifth inning when the Spartans broke the game open.
By this time, Solon had chased starting pitcher Austin Savary and Timp took the mound for Wahlert.
It apparently didn’t matter to the Spartan lineup.
A double by Maston and Linderbaum’s third hit of the game put runners at first and third, and Timp walked Drake to load the bases without recording an out.
When Zach Wegmann’s seeing-eye blooper found its way between the shortstop and the center fielder, Maston managed to make it across home plate, and the bases stayed loaded.
Adam Bock forced in another run when he was hit by a pitch, and a catcher interference call on Wahlert’s McDermott negated a foul-out by John Kessler and brought another run home for Solon.
With the bases still loaded, Kendrick Harris lined a single to the gap in left center plating two more runs to make it 8-2.
After stranding a man at third in their half of the inning, the Golden Eagles sent Owen Funke to the mound and he fared no better.
Linderbaum reached on a bobbled grounder, Drake singled past a diving shortstop and Zach Wegmann’s bunt down the first base line loaded the bases again with no outs for Peyton Bandy, whose RBI single brought Linderbaum home.
Pinch runner Ryan Geistkemper scored when the third baseman’s throw to home went offline on a Bock grounder and Wegmann also scored in the confusion.
Wahlert went to the bullpen again, and new pitcher Isaac Evans recorded the second out of the inning before giving up a single to Harris, bringing Bandy home for the final run of the game and a 12-2 lead.
Drake struck out the first two batters he faced in the bottom of the sixth before Evans popped out to Ira to end the game.
“There’s just something about these guys,” McSweeney said in assessing the Spartans’ run in the playoffs. “Something changed in that last regular season game when we beat Washington. There was more energy, there was a lot of trust in one another.
“Baseball’s a funny sport. It’s not like football or even maybe basketball where you can impose your will on people,” he said. “It’s about who’s hot, who’s playing great defense, and we are right now. So we’re going to ride it as long as we can.
“I’m very proud of our guys and our coaches.”