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Tigers end Bolts’ season

Liberty High baseball falls 7-5 to West Des Moines Valley in 4A substate semifinal

CEDAR RAPIDS– The first season of Mississippi Valley Division play, and the second season of varsity competition, ended for Liberty High’s baseball team Monday, July 22, at home (Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids) in a Class 4A substate semifinal against the Tigers of Valley High School from West Des Moines. The Tigers topped the Lightning 7-5 to advance to the substate final against West Des Moines Dowling Catholic on Wednesday, July 24. The Tigers fell 5-3 to the Maroons, who advanced to the state tournament.
The Tigers plated one runner in the top of the first inning with the bases loaded and two outs. The Bolts answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning as Tyler Dahm, Nolan Frey and Keian Secrist all singled to load up the bases. Dahm scored Liberty’s first run on a Dahm hit, while Sam Funke drove Frey home with a single.
Valley tied in the top of the second on an RBI single and got the go-ahead run with an RBI double for a 3-2 lead. Dahm knocked an RBI double in the bottom of the second, scoring Jack Kinzer, to tie the game at 3-3, while Frey singled to bring Dahm home for a 4-3 lead.
The Bolts faced a new pitcher in the bottom of the third inning, but T.J. Kimm brought in Isaac Bender to make it 5-3. Valley loaded the bases again in the top of the fifth with no outs. Liberty Coach Tom Cronk brought Ethan O’Donnell in to relieve Secrist on the mound. A sacrifice fly brought in one Tiger to narrow the gap to 5-4, but a big out at second base got the Bolts out of the inning, and limited the damage to just the one run.
Secrist tapped a blooper off the bat and beat the throw to first base in the bottom of the fifth. Unfortunately, Cody Schroeder was DOA at first base, and Funke and Bender both flew out stranding courtesy runner Cayden Duhaime. Valley tied with a run in the sixth, and again could have caused major damage as the bases filled up. Valley found a way past the Bolts’ in the seventh with two runs to take a 7-5 lead, and changed pitchers again for Liberty’s final shot. Dahm struck out to open the half, but Frey and Secrist singled, and Alec Boldt walked to load up the bases.
“It’s not a lot different than where we were last year against Fairfield (The Bolts fell 6-4 in a substate semifinal game). We get hot, the tying run is at second base, and we’ve got a chance. Anytime you’ve got the tying run on base, you’ve got a chance to go, and that’s what we do. There’s a lot of teams that strikeout to start the seventh (inning) and just fold. And we don’t do that. They just keep battling and fighting all the way through,” Cronk said of the final inning.
Funke and Bender struck out though, leading to jubilation for the Tigers and misery for the Lightning. However, Cronk was upbeat about his Bolts’ performance, and optimistic about the future.
“It’s progress,” he said. “We knew last year where we were at, and I thought we were playing our best baseball at the end of the year, and we gave a really good Fairfield team a heck of a run at the end. Valley was a state semifinal team last year with five seniors, and they’ve been through battles. Now we’re getting seasoned and getting through battles, and our guys are gonna come through. They worked their tails off. We’re gonna get better, and I hope next year we get Monday off (a bye and automatic spot in the substate final).”
Cronk added, “We’ve had a great year, we jumped into the Valley (Valley Division of the Mississippi Valley Conference), we’ve had a good year in the Valley (11-15 in the Division, 16-18 in the MVC overall), and I expect more and more of the same; our guys working hard and getting better, and hopefully next year, we can win the last one. I truly believe every experience we have is gonna help us get better. You can say it’s a kick in the butt, because it is, but by and large, we’re getting better and we’re in big spots. And next time we’re in this spot, we’re gonna know how to handle it a little bit better because we’ve done it. Unfortunately, tonight, we were one hit short. Our guys competed, and we had good looks, we were just one hit short.”
Frey and Secrist led Liberty with three hits each, Dahm was credited with a triple, and Kinzer had a double in the contest. O’Donnell took the loss after three innings on the mound. He gave up three hits and three earned runs, walked five and struck out two. Liberty finished the season with a 23-18 record. The Bolts bid farewell to one senior, pitcher/infielder Isaiah Pihl, and expect 15 juniors to return as seniors in 2020; seniors who played in Liberty High purple, black, and silver as Iowa City West High freshmen.
“We’re gonna learn from this and get better,” Cronk said. “And next year when my guys are seniors, we’ll get it done, and I’m confident that we’ll have a shot to get to Des Moines next year.”

Valley, West Des Moines 7, Liberty High 5
Hits — Nolan Frey 3, Keian Secrist 3, Tyler Dahm 2, Sam Funke 1, Jack Kinzer 1.
Triple — Dahm.
Double — Kinzer.
Pitching — Secrist, Ethan O’Donnell (L).
Secrist – 4 innings, 9 hits, 4 earned runs, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts.
O’Donnell – 3 innings, 3 hits, 3 earned runs, 5 walks, 2 strikeouts.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Valley 1 2 0 0 1 1 2 7
Liberty 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 5