CRESTON – They happen in every sport, but somehow the highs and lows in baseball seem uniquely its own.
St. Albert and Martensdale-St. Marys experienced all of them in the bottom of the seventh on Tuesday night.
The Blue Devils seemingly had a 4-0 victory wrapped up when Cy Patterson lifted a fly ball to right field with two on and two out.
But the right fielder, who had just entered the game for defense, dropped it. Bennett Heisterkamp and Ryan Genereux scored, and Patterson took third.
Patterson scored on a wild pitch to cut it to 4-3, adding to the jolt of life in the Falcon dugout.
But then, just as quickly, Carson Elbert induced Ethan Bernard to ground out to second, preserving No. 2 Martensdale-St. Marys’ 4-3 victory over unrated St. Albert in the Class 1-A, Substate 7 final at Creston High School.
“It’s just a cruel game,’’ St. Albert coach Duncan Patterson said. “What we can do as coaches is relay that that’s how your life is. Once you get out in the real world and get your job, it’s a cruel world. And what you do from this point on will define you as a person.’’
The Blue Devils (34-6) earned their 16th ticket to state overall and their ninth in 10 years. They will play at either 11 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. Friday or Saturday at Principal Park in Des Moines against an opponent to be determined.
St. Albert, seeking its 11th state appearance, bowed out at 24-14 after falling to the opponent that eliminated it 3-2 in last year’s 1-A state quarterfinals.
The winning pitcher in that game was 6-foot-7 Brady Gavin. On Tuesday, the Falcons managed only three hits in their six innings against Gavin’s brother, 6-8 Isaac Gavin (11-0).
However, St. Albert had its chances. Of its seven runners who were left stranded, six were left in scoring position.
The Blue Devils scored all the runs they would need in the first inning. Cole Cassady barely beat out an infield hit and Isaac Sherrill made a throwing error on Jack Franey’s sacrifice bunt. Elbert, Trey Baker and Kasey Carter followed with successive RBI singles for a 3-0 lead, and Sean Miklus later drew a bases-loaded walk.
Martensdale had one hit in each of its next five innings against Bernard (9-2), but he worked out of trouble effectively.
“I just wanted to lock in and give us a chance,’’ Bernard said. “I just started hitting my spots.’’
The younger Gavin walked three batters in the first inning, but got Reed Miller to fly out to center to end the threat.
“We were contemplating taking him out early,’’ Blue Devils coach Jon Fitzpatrick said. “Honestly, being up 4-0 helped out. It made that decision a lot easier. We came out and hit the ball really well against a really nice pitcher. We have great respect for their program and Bernard.’’
Gavin worked only one 1-2-3 inning, the fourth, thanks to Cassady’s remarkable catch in right field to lead it off, taking extra bases away from Miller. Playing in right center, he made a long sprint into the right-field corner and dived headlong, somehow keeping it in his glove.
“That was ridiculous,’’ Fitzpatrick said. “That’s one of the best plays I’ve seen all year.’’
The Falcons made things interesting in the seventh against Elbert, but came up a run short for a second straight year.
“We didn’t play the first inning, and that kind of hurt us,’’ Duncan Patterson said. “The better team won.’’
St. Albert graduates two seniors, Bernard and Miller.
“Good kids, great leaders,’’ the St. Albert coach said. “They helped these younger kids.’’
Bernard took the loss hard.
“The last four years with everybody has been great,’’ he said. “It’s been so much fun. These guys are awesome. To know it’s over, it just hurts.’’
Martensdale-SM (34-6) 400 000 0 – 4 10 1
St. Albert (24-14) 000 000 3 – 3 4 1
W: Isaac Gavin (11-0). L: Ethan Bernard (9-2). 2B: M, Jack Franey; SA, Cy Patterson.