DES MOINES — After his hitter struck out swinging for the second out of the seventh inning, Charlie Stumpff put his hands on his knees and bowed his head in the third-base coach’s box. He stayed in that position for a lengthy period of time before finally standing upright and clapping his hands in encouragement.
A man resigned to his fate.
“Looking at some divine intervention at that point,” the Iowa City West baseball coach said after his team’s 4-1 loss to West Des Moines Dowling in a Class 4A state tournament semifinal Friday night at Principal Park. “You’re trying to stay up, and sometimes you just let it go … You’re human. A lot of it was figuring out how you’re going to say goodbye to the boys. They’ve done a great job, they work hard. They did everything they were supposed to, met all the goals — except for the last one.”
This loss was galling for a West club in that had consecutive second-place finishes the previous two years. They were 10-runned by Cedar Rapids Kennedy last season in part because ace pitcher Ryan Rumpf was suspended after violating school policy following their semifinal win.
“This sucks,” Rumpf said, bluntly. “We’ve been building up to this year. It’s even worse that I’m a senior and I can’t get another shot. After all the stuff that happened last year, we just wanted to come here and run through this. It’s pretty disappointing.”
“This is nowhere near last year,” said West’s Luke Crimmins. “Last year, we knew we could win. This year, we got beat. We had everybody here and ready to play.”
Crimmins and reliever Kellen Yoder threw well enough to win but were done in by poor luck and poor outfield play. Top-seeded Dowling (35-7) scored in the first on a strikeout wild pitch and in the second thanks to a I-got-it-you-take-it fly ball that fell between shortstop Jeremy Cronk and left fielder Connor Schreck.
Dowling’s Connor Bravard reached with two outs in the third when West right fielder Ryan Siems dropped his routine fly. Alex McMurray followed with a bomb of a home run to left.
“We just didn’t pull it out. They played better than us,” Crimmins said.
West (32-11), which lost for just the second time in 21 games, was vexed by sidearming Dowling starter Andrew Clemen and hard-throwing reliever Vinny Crivaro, who combined on a four-hitter. Its last gasp came in the sixth when .500-hitter Rumpf had a long fly caught in right-center that was surely a home run at West’s cozy park.
“I don’t know the dimensions here,” Rumpf said. “Probably double of what we have.”