Mistakes doom Comets against rival Grundy Center

GRUNDY CENTER – Jacob Grafenberg had a conversation with his only two seniors before his Grundy Center baseball team took on conference rival BCLUW in the quarterfinals of the Class 1A District 5 tournament on Tuesday.

Grafenberg wanted his upperclassmen to be leaders in the postseason and then the Spartan coach handed the ball to Jordan Clapp and his right-hander did the rest.

Clapp sent the host Spartans to the district semifinal with a two-hit, five-strikeout performance against the Comets as Grundy Center scored four early runs and held off its rivals, 6-2.

Clapp improved to 6-1 on the season and also had two singles and an RBI at the plate and Grundy Center improved to 3-1 against BCLUW this season.

“His job was to be a leader tonight. He is one that is always ready to go though and will always be ready when I give him the ball,” said Graffenberg of his senior starter.

The Spartans cranked out 10 hits – all singles – and took advantage of three BCLUW errors in the win. Four of the 10 hits came in the three-run first inning that saw Bryce Moats and Grant Weldon lead off the inning with hits and both crossed homeplate.

Moats, the Spartans’ other senior, singled and scored again in the second and a big BCLUW error in the bottom of the fifth prolonged the inning and led to two more Grundy Center runs.

“The runs we gave them in the first two innings were the difference in the game,” said BCLUW coach Matt Zoske. “You can’t make that many errors against a team that is not going to make any and expect to be close. The way we played, we were lucky to even be close tonight.”

It was a bit of deja vu for the Comets, who fell behind early in last year’s first-round playoff game, which also was played in Grundy Center.

“It doesn’t matter who you play and when you go out, it is just unfortunate to not play our best,” said Zoske. “We played a team we knew we could beat and just didn’t play well. That’s the worst part of it.”

Clapp did not allow a hit until Taylor Sams collected an infield single in the fifth. Cole Silver also walked in that inning and Sams scored on Ty Runge’s sacrifice fly to center. The only other hit the Spartan senior gave up was Lane Caster’s line drive in the sixth inning.

“I thought he was better the first time we saw him, but he located better tonight,” said Zoske. “He worked up in the zone and if you can live up in the zone and get away with it you become tough to hit. I think he was all over the plate and that makes it tough. We certainly had no answer for him.”

The Spartans put the game away with two runs in the fifth. Austin Burroughs walked to begin the frame and then reached second on an error at second base that could have led to a double play. Freshman Jared Krausman then delivered an RBI single and freshman Braidan Buhrow scored on a wild pitch to make it 6-2.

Clapp and Moats are the team’s only two seniors and the rest of the team is made up of either eighth-graders. freshmen or sophomores.

“I have a lot of young guys, but I have 14 guys that have the most heart that I have ever coached,” said Grafenberg.”I think that is the one thing that is pulling them through right now.”

The first three games in the season series were decided by one run. Tuesday, the Spartans got up early on Conner Ubben (4-6) and never looked back and will now face another conference rival in Gladbrook-Reinbeck at home in the district semifinal at 7 p.m. Thursday.

“We took advantage of some of their mistakes and did what we needed to do and put the ball where we needed to when we were up at the plate,” said Grafenberg. “We were sick of playing one-run games against these guys and did what we had to do to win tonight.”

Notebook

The Spartans went 1-2 against Gladbrook-Reinbeck this season. The Rebels won 14-2 in Grundy Center back on June 12, but the Spartans scored a split in Reinbeck on July 8.