DES MOINES – Whatever kind of rain dance Harlan Community attempted, it failed miserably.
And without its top two pitchers, the Cyclones’ championship meeting with Davenport Assumption resembled last year’s.
Assumption ace Julien Broderson fired a three-hitter, Nick Gottilla became the first player in the 194-game history of Iowa title games with five hits, and the third-rated Knights breezed past top-rated Harlan 11-1 in a six-inning Class 3-A championship game at Principal Park.
“It was kind of like last year,’’ Harlan coach Steve Daeges said. “That’s a very good ballclub out there.’’
In last year’s final, Assumption scored in all six innings of a 10-1 triumph. This season, the top-seeded Knights (34-10) jumped to a 6-0 lead after two innings and coasted to their state-record 11th championship. They’re a remarkable 37-5 in 16 state appearances.
Second-seeded Harlan, which was seeking its fourth title, closed at 33-4.
Harlan ace Brett Sears made more than 90 pitches Tuesday in his team’s hard-fought 5-4 quarterfinal win over Boone, meaning he was forced to take four days of rest before he could pitch again. There was a small chance of rain Saturday, but the home of the Iowa Cubs remained dry. Starter Riley Kohles and Jacob Bartley gave what they had, but they combined to issue seven walks and hit three batters.
“We were kind of hoping for rain today,’’ Daeges said. “That pitch-count thing didn’t allow us to run Sears back there. You just can’t give them that many free passes.’’
The Knights got enough hitting from Gottilla alone to turn some of those free passes into runs. The junior doubled in each of the first two innings, and then singled in the third and fifth.
He entered the game with a modest .283 batting average and was 1-for-17 (.059) in his previous five games entering the finals. But when he came to bat in the bottom of the sixth with his team leading 9-1, he was a one hit away from separating himself from the 13 Iowans who shared the state record with four hits in a title game.
Gottilla lined a hit to right, scoring two runs to end the game and complete his 5-for-5 day.
In a 2-1 semifinal win over Sioux City Heelan, he went the distance while striking out 11 and allowing one earned run.
“It’s nice to not be known just as a pitcher,’’ Gottilla said.
He said it was good that he had no idea about the record when he came up the final time.
“I probably would have psyched myself out,’’ he said.
Harlan’s five seniors – Nick Foss, Ryan Doran, Jared Moser, Logan Klaassen and Bartley -- exited with the distinction of helping the program to four consecutive state finals. The Cyclones won it all in 2016 in addition to the three runner-up finishes.
“I remember coming here before I even could put on a Cyclone uniform,’’ said Moser, who was a five-year varsity player. “It’s a blessing to be able to come here and play for five years in a row.’’
Said Foss, a decorated four-sport athlete: “Just looking at all the coaches and all the people I get to represent every time I compete, it means a lot to me and I take a lot of pride in that.’’
Daeges said Assumption’s predominantly 4-A schedule gives it an advantage over most teams in its class.
“They play in a 4-A conference, and they’re seeing good arms and playing good baseball,’’ he said. “Where we do that some. The Hawkeye Ten is an excellent conference, but it’s not the Mississippi Valley that they play in. I think it just prepares you more for games like this.’’
Assumption coach Billy Argo announced after the game that he’s resigning his position. In 18 years he compiled a 540-201 (.729) record, reaching nine championship games and winning six.
He said he’d dreamed about going out on top.
“I thought, ‘Well this would be too good to be true, really,’’’ he said. “And they handed me the trophy. So that was pretty cool.’’
Harlan (33-4) 000 100 – 1 3 2
Davenport Assumption (34-10) 061 013 – 11 11 0
W: Julien Broderson (8-0). L: Riley Kohles (3-2). 2B: A, Gottilla 2, Adrian.