DYERSVILLE – Joey Lehmann has broad shoulders.
Even though his left might be a little sore after a season-high pitch count, he was plenty strong to carry Dyersville Beckman to its latest victory.
The top-ranked Blazers defeated Monticello, 4-0, in the Class 2A District 8 final last night at Commercial Club Park’s Jenk Field. Beckman (32-6) advances to the 2A substate 4 championship Tuesday at Oelwein, beginning at 7 p.m.
Lehmann was nearly untouchable as far as hits were concerned. He stifled the Monticello offense, allowing just one single, striking out 12 and throwing about 140 pitches. He improved to 11-0 this season and is 20-0 in his varsity career for the defending state champions.
“We’re in a situation we had our best on the mound,” Beckman Coach Tom Jenk said. “We were going to live and die with Joey out there tonight. Looks like we’re still living.”
Even though he tallied a number of pitches, they were exclusively fastball and curveballs. Lehmann didn’t give up a hit, but battled some control problems with seven walks. He was able to find his spots when he needed most against a patient Panthers offense.
“I just stuck with two pitches,” Lehmann said. “That seemed to work, getting a few kids on the curveball. I had good chemistry with the catcher (Tyler Knepper) and I think that’s really important.”
Beckman provided all the run support early. Levi Lawrence and Ian Ross hit consecutive doubles to open the scoring. Lehmann moved Ross to third with a single, leading to Michael Boeckenstedt’s sacrifice fly to deep right field to make it 2-0 at the end of one.
“That’s always important,” Jenk said about the early lead. “One run can win the game for us with Joey on the mound.”
The Panthers (30-7) were able to get batters on base, drawing seven walks. Monticello was retired in order only twice, putting at least two on in three innings. The Panthers had bases loaded in the top of the sixth with the go-ahead run at the plate with none out.
Lehmann thwarted the rally, getting a shallow fly ball to right field, a strikeout and another flyout to right field to end the inning. Monticello was 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
The game could have taken a different tone had Monticello received a clutch hit.
“We did all we could,” Monticello Coach Josh Soper said. “We just couldn’t get that timely hit.”
”I think we have a great team out here,” Lehmann said.” I don’t have to worry too much about it. If I can just throw strikes and let them hit it, that’s what I’ll rely on.”
Errors helped the Blazers pad their lead in the third. Ross reached on a throwing error after a groundball to shortstop. He scored all the way from first on the next at-bat when Lehmann’s sacrifice bunt was fielded by pitcher Matt Holmes, whose throw sailed into right field. Beckman led 3-0 after three.
“Our goal was to play for one run an inning, which you saw us do with bunts,” Jenk said. “That’s out of the ordinary for me. I’m more of a big-inning kind of guy. Tonight small ball was necessary to win.”
Miscues helped Beckman add an insurance run in the sixth. Boeckenstedt reached on an error. Pinch-runner Eric Boeckenstedt moved to second on a sacrifice, advanced to third on a balk and scored on a wild pitch, giving Beckman a 4-0 lead.
A four-run lead wasn’t enough to keep Lehmann off the mound for the final inning. He said his arm felt fine after the game and he still had plenty for the final three outs.
“He (Coach Jenk) asked me if I wanted to finish it,” Lehmann said. “I said, ‘Sure I’ll keep going.’ ”
Beckman claimed its 24th district title, following its Wamac Conference crown. The Blazers dropped Clayton Ridge/Central, 4-2, in the semifinals. Jenk said the Blazers felt pressure early to repeat, but they have adopted an attitude of creating its own identity. They are focused on trying to claim a second straight 2A title.
“We’re still talking like it’s the beginning of the season, saying we still a lot ahead,” Lehmann said. “Don’t want to stop now. It’s motivation.”
Soper said the Panthers were a little too excited at the start and the Blazers took advantage of mistakes. Tanner Felton had Monticello’s lone hit. Michael Reuter reached base with walks three times and Zach Monk walked twice for the Panthers.
“We competed,” Soper said. “We believed to the very last out. We had professional at-bats all the way. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
Monticello advanced to the district final with a 5-2 upset of third-ranked Cascade after handling MFL MarMac 10-0. The Panthers set a school record with 30 wins and defeated three ranked teams, giving up less than two runs a game the entire year.
“We had a phenomenal season,” Soper said. “As I told the kids, only one team is going to raise the state championship at the end of the year. If you’ve gotten through the Northeast district you’ve earned it.”
The Blazers will face New Hampton (25-8) in the substate final with a berth to the 2A state tournament at stake. New Hampton beat Sumner-Fredericksburg, 1-0, in Saturday’s District 7 championship. New Hampton was regular-season runner-up in the Northeast Iowa Conference.
Blazers, Commercial Club Park, Dyersville Beckman, Ian Ross, Jenk Field, Joey Lehmann, Josh Soper, Levi Lawrence, Michael Boeckenstedt, Michael Reuter, Monticello, Panthers, Tanner Felton, Tom Jenk, video, Zach Monk