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Drake Brezina had a no-hitter through five innings of IMS’ playoff opener versus Iowa Valley in Victor Tuesday and finished giving up three hits in seven innings pitched. Unfortunately, the game went eight innings, and despite a rally to tie things up in the seventh, IMS fell 4-2.
IMS was the only team to have a hit through the first five innings, collecting five through the first four. A couple outs on the base paths, Noah Bruns caught stealing in the second and a force out on a blooper to right, meant that those hits didn’t translate into runs.
Head Coach Danny Hershberger praised the work of Iowa Valley starter Gavin Collingwood, who struck out 10 over eight innings. “I thought he did a really good job of, when he did give up a hit, coming right back and getting the next guy and we weren’t able to really string consecutive hits together,” he commented.
Hershberger continued, “When we did, they were little in between ones that are hard base running plays and they were able to get some outs there on some of those hits. Really good job by them not letting us get going offensively.”
Brezina, for his part, had a more interesting time on the mound than a no-hitter would suggest in the first five innings. He walked six batters through those innings, which meant he had plenty of baserunners to deal with.
Brezina also collected all nine of his strikeouts in the first five innings, which helped him get out of trouble.
Hershberger praised the way his pitcher stepped up when his team needed him the most. “I thought he pitched extremely well. It was probably his best outing of the year. It was a great time to have it,” he said. “He never let the batters get comfortable at the plate.”
Iowa Valley finally broke up the no-hitter with a one out single in the sixth. That was followed up one batter later with a two out double to give Iowa Valley a 1-0 lead. They added another run with hit three, a two out single, in the seventh.
In the seventh, IMS managed to get runners to first and second with just one out, thanks to singles from Tobyn Bender and Cole Yoder, but a Jacob Schmeider strikeout brought IMS down to their last out. Blake Bontrager hit a fly ball to left that looked like it should end it, but the left fielder dropped the ball, allowing pinch runner Cambridge Hathaway, pinch running for Bender, and Yoder to score and tie the game.
“That was a great hit by Blake to give us a chance and really heads up by Cole to just keep running and make them make a play. Fortunately that pressure led us to tie the game there,” commented Hershberger.
In the eighth, Reggie Borntrager came in in relief of Brezina, whose six walks in the game elevated his pitch count, despite giving up just three hits. Hershberger said that had been a point of emphasis with Brezina all year. “That’s one thing we’ve been working on with him, is to limit the walks so he can pitch longer. He did a pretty good job of being close, but he did walk more than we would like, but that happens,” he said.
Borntrager struggled, walking two batters and loading the bases after a bunt left everybody safe. Nick Yutzy looked as though he might get IMS out of the inning without any damage though. He forced an infield popup and a comebacker to the mound, which allowed him to get the out at home.
However, on the comebacker, catcher Bontrager’s throw to first, to try to complete the 1-2-3 double play sailed high, allowing two runs to score. “That’s something that can happen in baseball,” said Hershberger of the play. “Unfortunately, it happened there at that time, but really proud of our defense for the whole game keeping us in the game and giving us a chance to win.”
In the eighth, IMS went down in order, despite Yutzy technically having a single in the inning. The ball was overthrown to first and Yutzy was judged to have made a move towards first before making the turn into foul territory. Yutzy was tagged before he got back to the base and called out.
Yoder led the team with two hits and a run. Bender, Bruns, Brezina, and Jakob Schmidt collected the other IMS hits in the game.
“You want to be playing your best baseball at this time of the year and I thought we put together one of our best played games of the season,” said Hershberger. “Unfortunately it didn’t quite go our way at the last inning, but overall I’m happy with the way we played tonight.”
IMS finished the season with a record of 6-14.