FENNIMORE — Friday’s WIAA Division 3 regional quarterfinal baseball game at third-seeded Fennimore figured to be an up-hill battle for Chris Rear’s young Iowa–Grant ball club.
When the Golden Eagle senior Ian Streeter smashed a three-run homer on the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the first inning, the visiting Panthers’’ climb would be that much steeper.
Fennimore added two runs in the bottom of the second to take a commanding 6–1 lead and I–G captain and starting pitcher T.J. Anderson was lost for the game to injury/illness. It appeared the host Eagles were on the verge of another lop-sided victory over the Panthers.
But despite falling behind big early, against a team that had already beaten them twice this season by the combined score of 39–13, Rear’s boys battled back.
“The kids were extremely excited to play,” said Rear. “They did a great job of communicating outs, situations, etcetera, which in turn allowed us to compete and maintain our composure. We were faced with a lot of adversity in the game.”
Iowa–Grant scored three runs all with two outs in the third and one in the top of the sixth to pull within a run, before Fennimore ultimately pulled away for a 9–5 opening round playoff win.
After two quick outs in the fourth, junior Colin Fingerson singled to left field to ignite an I–G rally..
Juniors Kyler Stevens and Tad Spurley followed with singles to load the bases.
Fellow junior Brett Coppernoll drew a bases loaded walk and Tanner Naeger singled to center field to make it 6–3.
Freshman Isaac Anderson followed with an infield single to shortstop to plate another run.
Fennimore ace Kane Klais was called upon to relieve starter Michael Hunt, and the senior stand out got out of the bases loaded jam without further damage by striking out I–G freshman Kyle Francis.
Iowa–Grant pulled within a run at 6–5 in the top of the sixth on Naeger’s two-out RBI single to left field, that scored Stevens after his lead off double.
Fennimore added three insurance runs in the home half of the sixth on a RBI double by Hunt and a two-run Panther error.
Fennimore senior Austin Fifrick set the Panthers down in order in the seventh to close out the win.
Fifrick struck out five without allowing a walk while allowing one run on two hits in three innings of relief to earn the win.
Naeger went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and Stevens went 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored to lead the Panthers’ offense.
Iowa–Grant finished the season 2–15 overall.
“This year was tough, learning, rewarding, and a season that makes you want to work harder,” added Rear. “We made the commitment to challenge ourselves daily, compete daily, and improve so we play our best baseball come playoff time. I truly believe that this team did that. Despite the loss, that was the best game we had competed in and on the most enjoyable and memorable games that I have been able to coach in.”
Fennimore improved to 13–3 and advanced to face second-seeded Wisconsin Heights in the D3 regional semifinals, which were originally scheduled for Tuesday..
Riverdale 10, Iowa–Grant 0
(from Tuesday, May 21 @ Muscoda)
Iowa-Grant 000 00 — 0 1 4
Riverdale 016 12 — 10 9 0
Leading hitters — R: Miller 3x3. 2B — R: Miller 2, Ingalls, Spears. W — Meister (5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 6 SO, 1 BB). L — Acea Upmann (0–2, 3.2 IP, 6 H, 10 R, 4 ER, 6 SO, 3 BB).
WIAA Division 3 Regional Quarterfinal
Fennimore 9, Iowa–Grant 5
(from Friday, May 24 @ Fennimore
Iowa–Grant 100 301 0 — 5 10 2
Fennimore 420 003 x — 9 10 1
Leading hitters — Tanner Naeger 3x4, Isaac Anderson 2x3, Kyler Stevens 2x3; F: Jeff Needham 3x3, Handelt 2x3. 2B — IG: Stevens; F: Needham, Hunt. HR — F: Ian Streeter. W — Austin Fifrick (3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 SO, 0 BB).L — T.J. Anderson (0–8, 2 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 SO, 1 BB).