VAN HORNE – The rallying Raiders never quit.
Now, they don’t have to stop playing.
Williamsburg extended the game and then extended its season when Nick Spratt scored on a miscue in a 10-inning thriller, beating Benton Community, 5-4, in an Iowa High School Athletic Association Class 3A substate 5 final Wednesday night at Manship Field. The Raiders earned their first state berth since 2003 and just the third in school history.
Williamsburg produced two two-out rallies. The first came in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings with the final ending the come-from behind victory. Williamsburg Coach Ben Grier laughed and said “never a doubt” to a Raider fan after the game.
“We kept battling,” Williamsburg Coach Ben Grier said. “The game was never over. Down but never out.”
Williamsburg (20-18) loaded the bases in the bottom of the 10th on Nick Spratt’s single and back-to-back walks by Aaron Schultz and Cody Marine, who was 2-for-3 and reached base five times. Chance Wetjens, who kept the Raiders in the game by limiting Benton to four runs through the seven, batted and hit a grounder to shortstop.
When Marine beat the throw second, preventing the inning-ending force out. Spratt crossed the plate with the winning run, propelling the Raiders to a 3A state quarterfinal game against top-ranked Sioux City Heelan (34-4) at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Principal Park in Des Moines.
Wetjens said he just attempted to put the ball in play.
“It was a team effort,” said Wetjens, who had an RBI double in the fifth. “I think everyone did something and played a part to win the game tonight. We came out on top.”
The loss was disappointing, but Benton Coach Derek Anderson dismissed ending on an uncharacteristic mistake made it tougher.
“Losing is losing,” Anderson said. “You can point to a lot of different plays throughout the 10 innings. You can’t just look at one play that turned the game around.”
Benton (28-14) appeared poised for a second straight state tournament trip. Bobcat pitcher Mitch Moser struck out two in the seventh, sandwiching consecutive one-out base hits to Schultz and Marine.
Jacob Holub cut the Benton lead to 4-2 with a base hit to center to score Schultz. The stage was set for Payton Kauzlarich, who blooped a double that down the right-field line that tied the game.
Kauzlarich was determined to make amends for previous missed opportunities.
“I was looking for an outside pitch to drive the other way and luckily it fell in,” Kauzlarich said. “The first two at-bats I was the third out of the inning. I told myself I wasn’t going to be the third out that inning.”
Williamsburg gained confidence and was in control once they pulled even. After the seventh, there was optimism that they would finish the job.
“Once we scored, I thought we had the momentum,” Wetjens said. “Even when we were on defense I never really felt like they were going to come back. When we were on offense, I felt we were pretty much in control. We were still taking our time at the plate and winning at-bats. We got it done late.”
The Bobcats threatened, advancing runners to scoring position in each of the extra innings. Jacob Donohoe and Marine combined for three shutout innings in relief.
“Sometimes you get those timely hits, which we did early in the game,” Anderson said. “Late in the game we weren’t able to get some of those same at-bats and credit to their good pitchers. In the extra innings, they made some pitches and got some of our guys out.”
Moser powered the Bobcats most of the game, pitching out of bases-loaded jams in the first two innings. Moser then stifled the Raiders offense for most of the game until the final inning, retiring 10 straight batters at one point and striking out 11.
Moser, who struck out 10 in a regular-season win over Williamsburg, performed well, despite the Raiders late flurry. The Bobcats banked on Moser, but he may have been left in too long, giving up as many hits in the final inning as in the previous six combined.
“He was our guy,” Anderson said. “He was still throwing well.”
Moser has torched Williamsburg this season, going 9-for-12 in three games. He was 4-for-5, reaching on an error, and scored three times last night. He opened the game with a triple, advancing home when a throw sailed over the third basemen’s head and giving Benton an early advantage.
The Bobcats increased their lead to 3-0 in the third. Jordan McFarland’s base hit to left field plated Moser, who led off with a single. McFarland scored on Parker Kraus’ shot to left-center field. A strong relay cut down a runner, trailing McFarland, to end the inning.
The victory was indicative of an improved Raider squad that is rolling into state. Williamsburg has gone 11-3 in its last 14 games, rebounding from a 9-15 record at one point.
“I think this was a great example of how we’ve been the second half of the season,” Grier said. “We got together. I told the guys individually why I believed in them. They took it to heart. They really came together.”
Aaron Schultz, baseball, Ben Grier, Benton Community, Bobcats, Chance Wetjens, Cody Marine, Derek Anderson, IHSAA substate final, Jordan McFarland, Mitch Moser, Payton Kauzlarich, Raiders, video, Williamsburg