Drake Nettles went out the way his coaches at Lewis Central always describe him.
The graduated senior will head to Ames on Wednesday to begin his college career as a kicker with the Iowa State football program. In his prep swan song, Nettles pitched a complete-game victory and drove in the winning run with a sixth-inning double Tuesday in the Titans’ 7-4 Hawkeye Ten Conference home win over St. Albert.
“I’ve been dreading this day all year,’’ L.C. coach Lee Toole said. “He’s such a great kid, a great competitor, a great leader, a role model. He does it all. To lose not only a player, but a person the caliber of Drake, it’s tough. It’s going to be emotional when this thing’s over tonight.’’
The second game of the doubleheader was rained out and will be made up on Wednesday at 1 p.m. at St. Albert.
But Nettles won’t be around. Shortly after Tuesday’s victory, he was the lone Titan sitting in the dugout, contemplating the end of his high school journey. When some teammates returned a few minutes later, he became emotional. Public-address announcer Taylor May relayed to the crowd that it was Nettles’ final night as a Titan, and it showed its appreciation.
“It’s going to be very difficult, this whole process of leaving early,’’ he said. “It’s been tough, but I’m so glad Coach Toole and all my friends allowed me to (play part of the season).’’
It’s rare for a high school pitcher to throw a complete game without issuing a walk, but Nettles did it. He allowed seven hits while striking out eight and hitting one.
Lewis Central (8-3, 6-0) led 3-1 after one inning on a Jonah Pomrenke two-run single and a Britton Bond RBI single.
St. Albert trailed 4-2 after four innings, but Ryan Genereux’s sacrifice fly cut it to one in the fifth, and then Ethan Bernard reached on an error and eventually scored on a wild pitch in the top of the sixth to make it a 4-4 game.
Bond was hit by a pitch to lead off the bottom of the sixth. John Hemmingsen sacrificed him to second, and Nettles laced a tiebreaking double to left-center. Easton Dermody followed with a double down the left-field line for a 6-4 lead, and Colbey Roth added an RBI groundout to give Nettles a three-run cushion.
Titan first baseman Jordan Wardlow made an outstanding catch in foul territory to lead off the St. Albert seventh, and Cael Malskeit followed with a diving stop and throw at second before Nettles ended it in style with a strikeout.
Nettles was a four-sport athlete in his first two years at L.C., before excelling in baseball, football and track as a junior and senior.
“I think I greatly benefited playing baseball,’’ he said. “I think I got better towards football than I would have if I’d just stayed chilling out in the summer, kicking.’’
One night after a 2-1 loss to Harlan, St. Albert had four extra-base hits against Nettles, but dropped to 6-7 overall and 3-3 in league play.
“You don’t want to get used to (losing),’’ St. Albert coach Duncan Patterson said. “You don’t want to make it a habit. But I’m excited how they’re playing. They’re battling and staying in there.
“Hopefully as the season progresses, that will help us for districts and state, because that’s the ultimate goal.’’
Cy Patterson went 2-for-4 with an RBI for the Falcons, and Roth finished 2-for-4 with an RBI for L.C.
“The kids are starting to believe in themselves as a team, and they’re having some fun playing, and that’s the name of the game,’’ Toole said.
Nettles said he’ll always look back fondly on his high school experience.
“I don’t think in the long run I’m going to remember stats or how I played during the game,’’ he said. “I think it will be the memories of the guys and coaches during road trips and practices, all that fun stuff.’’
St. Albert (6-7, 3-3) 100 111 0–4 7 1
Lewis Central (8-3, 6-0) 300 103 x–7 7 2
W: Drake Nettles (4-0). L: Jeff Miller (1-1). 2B: SA, Ethan Bernard, Bennett Heisterkamp, Cy Patterson. LC, Nettles, Easton Dermody. 3B: SA, Lance Wright.