COUNCIL BLUFFS — For a team accustomed to making comebacks, Essex/South Page turned the tables on Council Bluffs St. Albert in the district final.
After taking a 4-3 lead in the top of the third, the Trojans put the pressure on the top-seeded Falcons to answer. In its first two district games , Essex came back from a seven-run deficit to beat Fremont-Mills and five-run deficit against Bedford.
It didn’t take long for St. Albert to prove it could handle the adversity. In the bottom half of the third, the Class 1-A No. 7 Falcons scored three runs to regain the lead.
Then they tacked on eight runs in the final three innings of the Class 1-A, District 14 final to defeat Essex 14-4 in six innings.
Senior Garret Reisz, senior Jake Hubbard and sophomore Lance Wright had home runs to lead the Falcons. Wright also had a double and drove in five runs. Senior Chase Guthrie led the Trojans by going 1 for 3 with a double and two RBIs.
St. Albert will face Nodaway Valley in the Substate 7 final at Glenwood at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
After St. Albert won its first two district games by a combined 26-0, coach Duncan Patterson was more than happy to see how his team would respond to getting down against a team like Essex.
The Falcons “came right back in the bottom half of the inning and then they just kept tacking it on,” Patterson said. “I think for us, it was probably the best thing for us. They showed resilience. They stayed in it. Each guy was picking each other up.”
When the Falcons fell behind in the third, it was largely a result of confusion between pitcher and umpire. St. Albert starter Carson Kress was called for three balks in the inning — the umpire saw him raise his glove, set and then lower his glove before delivering the pitch.
Patterson claimed that is how Kress has pitched all season. After the third balk, the Falcons turned to Ethan Bernard to finish the inning.
A two-RBI double by Guthrie made it 3-3, and an RBI single by senior Jacob Hammers gave Essex the lead.
“When we got to that point, we talked about how it was pure excitement because I know many people didn’t give us any chance of playing even four or five innings with these guys,” Essex coach Jay Soderberg said. “So to put a couple runs on the board against these guys was really exciting.
“But they have some hitters we just don’t ever see. They hit the ball well.”
Reisz and Hubbard hit back-to-back homers in the first inning to give the Falcons a 3-0 lead early on, and a 3-run shot by Wright in the fourth gave them a commanding lead once again at 9-4.
After Bernard got the Falcons out of the third, Hubbard finished the game by facing nine batters in the final three innings and striking out all nine.
The senior also delivered the RBI double in the sixth to make it 13-4, and he scored the game-winning run when Kress belted a single down the left field line for the final score of 14-4.Hubbard said both he and his team are operating at peak confidence heading into the substate.
“I told Coach I wanted the ball because the previous two games, me and Garret (Reisz) were just throwing strikes, striking everyone out, just playing our best. So I thought I could do that again,” Hubbard said. “I think we’re a scary baseball team when we can throw strikes and hit the ball because baseball is a simple game.
“You throw the ball, hit the ball, catch the ball. If you do those three things right, you’re going to win.”
Essex/South Page (6-15)….004 000— 4 2 2
C.B. St. Albert (30-9)…….303 323—14 11 1
W: Ethan Bernard. L: Dan Ohnmacht. 2B: SA, Lance Wright, Jake Hubbard. HR: Wright, Hubbard, Garret Reisz.