DYERSVILLE, Iowa — Josh Engler expected the veteran approach his young Dyersville Beckman teammates took to a difficult situation Saturday night.
Despite falling in a six-run hole early, the Trailblazers fought until the final out of a 6-5 loss to Monticello in the Iowa Class 2A District 7 championship game at Commercial Club Park’s Jenk Field. The Panthers (6-7) advanced to play Durant in the Substate 4 title game Tuesday in Maquoketa, while Beckman bowed out at 9-13.
“We may be down, but we never give up,” said Engler, a senior who drove in a pair of runs. “We’re a really young team, but that doesn’t matter. We know we have the potential to win games, even if we fall behind early. We’ve done that a lot this season.
“I was proud of the way we battled back. We started to get the momentum and we hit the ball hard, but we just couldn’t find enough gaps.”
Beckman featured four seniors, three juniors, three sophomores and two freshmen among its regulars this season. It was an anomaly for a program that has built one of the state’s best traditions on the strength of strong senior classes.
“There’s so much potential in this group if they continue to work at it,” Beckman coach Fred Martin said. “These kids love the game, and their upside is crazy. It was a fun group to be around.
“The complexion of our team really changed after everything got shut down (by the coronavirus) in March. We had a few pitchers who were looking really good in March, but, after being shut down for three months, they really couldn’t get back in that groove.”
Monticello scored all of its runs in the second inning. Dylan Roher drew a bases-loaded walk and Tyler Luensman a bases-loaded hit batsman to end starter Cameron Krapfl’s night. Reliever Logan Burchard walked leadoff man Caleb Sauser, two runs scored on Tate Petersen’s suicide squeeze and Justin Recker singled up the middle to make it 6-0. Monticello sent 10 hitters to the plate in the inning and collected two hits, three walks and a hit batsman.
“We’ve been big all year on playing small ball, and we wanted to put pressure on their defense,” Petersen said. “My first at-bat, I messed up because I didn’t get a bunt down like I was supposed to. In that (second) situation, I knew I had to get it down. It felt good to pick myself up after the first-at bat.”
In the third, Beckman loaded the bases when Luke Schieltz and Luke Goedken sandwiched walks around an Owen Huehnergarth base hit through the left side. Engler walked to force in the first run, and two more crossed when Nick Offerman reached on a fielder’s choice and the Panthers threw the ball away trying to turn a double play. A second error, on a Burchard grounder, plated another run and pulled Beckman within 6-4.
Beckman threatened with a pair of base runners in the sixth, but reliever Sauser wiggled his way out of trouble with a strikeout.
In the seventh, Goedken singled and scored on Engler’s double to pull Beckman within a run and Beckman had the tying run on third base and the potential winning run on second. But Sauser again got out of a jam to end it.
The game marked the end of a nine-year run in the program for assistant coach Conner Klostermann, who won state championships as a player (2012-13) and as an assistant (2017) during that time. He has accepted a graduate assistant coaching position at Northern State University, an NCAA Division II program in Aberdeen, S.D. Klostermann recently graduated from Upper Iowa University, a rival of Northern State in the Northern Sun Conference.
“We’re going to miss Conner,” said Martin, who completed his fourth year at the helm. “The kid absolutely works his tail off every day and has the respect of everyone in the program. I mean, how many 19-year-old kids are trusted enough to coach third base in the state tournament at Principal Park? He’s been my right-hand man.”
Monticello avenged a 16-8 loss to Beckman in the first round of last year’s district tournament.
“The last five or six years, the program has run into Beckman pretty much every year, and obviously that’s a tough task,” Monticello coach Kolby Harms said. “We got some breaks, but our guys were mentally tough and were able to finally get over that hump. I’m really proud of them.”