Big Reds claim state championship

Posted on June 29, 2011


By Jason McGrann (From http://www.dailyiowegian.com)

DES  MOINES – The Centerville baseball team wrapped up its amazing run at the state tournament by claiming the class 3A state championship on Saturday at Principal Park.

Big Red pitcher Jay Schmidt took a no-hitter into the seventh inning as Centerville defeated second-ranked Harlan 1-0 to win its first state championship since 1988.

Schmidt was nearly untouchable on the mound for Centerville. Schmidt’s bid to throw the fourth no-hitter in Iowa state championship history was broken up with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning by Harlan clean-up hitter Brett Stein.

Centerville right fielder Seth Thomas kept Schmidt’s no-hit bid alive in the seventh inning with a spectacular over-the-shoulder catch near the warning track for the first out of the inning.

Following Stein’s single, Harlan pinch-runner Nathan Bruck stole second base, putting the tying run in scoring position with one out. Cyclone pitcher Tyler Lefeber then lined out to Centerville center fielder Jordan McCoy, with Bruck tagging and advancing to third on the play. Before throwing another pitch, Schmidt tossed the ball to shortstop Michael Kauzlarich who stepped on second base, appealing that Bruck left second base too early on the previous play. The umpire pumped his fist, calling Bruck out as the Centerville fans and players erupted in celebration.

“I don’t know if it’s really sunk in yet. It was an unbelievable ball game. The way it ended was crazy,” said Centerville head coach Bill Huisman. “I might start crying. I have to keep my emotions under control.  I’m so proud of them. What a season.”

The complete-game one hitter was the 10th in state championship history, earning Schmidt the 2008 Iowa State Championship 3A Player of the Game.

Schmidt looked very comfortable on the hill, although he admitted after the game that he wasn’t at first.

“I was very nervous. It was one of the scariest moments of my life. When I got out there and started throwing strikes it calmed me down,” said Schmidt.

The formula for Schmidt’s success was simple – stay up late, sleep in and eat fast food prior to the game.

“Everybody told me I had to go to bed by 8 p.m. I stayed up until 12 a.m. and slept until 11 a.m. Then we went to Valley West Mall and I ate at KFC/Taco Bell,” Schmidt said.

Whatever Schmidt did worked as he put together his best performance of the season.

“I was very fired up. It’s the championship game and you want to do your best,” added Schmidt.

Schmidt finished with eight strikeouts and just one walk during the one-hit performance.

“Jay was unbelievable. He was flipping his glove and when he does that he’s on,” said Huisman.

It was a storybook ending for the Big Reds, especially for seniors Patrick Harshman and Wallace Carter. Harshman earned pitching wins during Centerville’s first two games at the state tournament – both complete-game victories over third-ranked Charles City (11-1) and top-ranked West Delaware (2-0).

Harshman scored Centerville’s only run against Harlan in the title game with Carter knocking him in on a line shot down the left field line in the first inning, which proved to be the difference.

Carter was originally scheduled to play in the Iowa Shrine Bowl all-star football game in Ames on Saturday but chose to stay in Des Moines with the Big Red baseball team. Carter was playing on one leg after badly re-injuring his hamstring in the first inning against Charles City on Tuesday. Carter, who entered the state tournament as the top hitter in class 3A, still managed to get a hit in all three state tournament games despite the painful leg injury, including the game-winning hit in the championship game.

“It feels extraordinary. I can’t really explain it,” commented Carter.

Carter couldn’t play left field due to the injury, but stayed in the lineup as the designated hitter even though he couldn’t run.

“I couldn’t really do anything, I felt helpless,” said Carter.

With two outs in the top of the first inning and Harshman on third base, Carter ripped the first pitch down the left field line in what looked like an easy double. With his bad leg, Carter hobbled to first base in obvious pain.

“It (leg) hurts pretty bad. When I swing wrong I can definitely feel it. I can’t run,” said Carter.

Carter now adds a state baseball title to his long list of high school sports accomplishments. Carter has won two discus state titles, is a two-time placewinner at the state wrestling tournament and is also an all-state football player.

“It’s definitely up there,” commented Carter when asked where the state baseball title ranks during his prep career. “Winning with a team is a lot better than winning by yourself. At least you can celebrate with your friends and family.”

Centerville was arguably the most impressive squad at the state tournament, all classes included (32 teams). Not only did the Big Reds defeat the number one, number two and number three ranked teams in class 3A, Centerville also led the entire tournament in team batting average and was second overall in pitching earned run average. The Big Reds hit .372 (29-78) as a team in three games and compiled a team ERA of 0.37 in 19 innings. Only 1A champion North Sentral Kossuth had a better team earned run average (0.35).

Centerville scored in the first inning of all three contests and never trailed during the entire tournament.

Not only did Harshman and Schmidt put together some of the best pitching performances in state tournament history, they also got it done with the bats. Schmidt was Centerville’s leading hitter during the tournament, going 5-for-7 (.714) with a double and three runs batted in. Schmidt’s double off the left field wall gave the Big Reds an 11-1 walk-off victory over Charles City on Tuesday. Harshman was 5-for-9 (.556) at state with three walks and a tournament-high three stolen bases, including two steals, two hits and the winning run in the championship game.

Although it’s been 20 years since Centerville’s only state baseball title, there are several similarities between the two squads. Both teams finished the season with identical records of 32-7. The final loss of the season for both teams was to Albia.

The 2008 squad lost to Albia on June 30 before rattling off 13 straight victories to reach the pinnacle of high school baseball.

“The comparison of 1988 and now – it’s a little scary,” commented Huisman during an emotional post-game speech to the players in the locker room.

Huisman then separated Big Reds by class, counting up the players that will return next season. The final tally was 18 returning with two graduating.

“You guys are going to have a huge monkey on your backs,” Huisman said to the players. “You got a shot next year. How much do you guys want to dedicate yourselves?”

Photos by Jason McGrann

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Posted in: Sports