LENOX – The first 12 Lenox batters to step to the plate in the bottom of the first inning all came around to score as the Tigers toppled the East Union Eagles 16-0 in four innings Tuesday in the Class 1A District 13 quarterfinal.
Lenox will host Lamoni Thursday after the Demons beat Orient-Macksburg earlier that day (see accompanying story).
Leadoff hits from Colton Hogan and starting pitcher Aaron Schmitz got the Tigers started before three straight walks brought in the game’s first two runs.
Zach Schmitz singled in a run, forcing East Union to relieve starting pitcher Joshua Hardy.
East Union brought in Ethan Mitchell in relief before bringing in Trevor Jones to close out the opening inning.
“I’ve been preaching it all week even after our Nodaway Valley loss, one pitch at a time. One at-bat at a time. One game at a time, but it starts one pitch at a time and that’s our focus,” said Lenox head coach Trevor Luther.
Each Tiger batter stepped to the plate twice in the first inning.
Lenox’s Danny Ramirez recorded a two-run single in the first inning, an RBI groundout in the second and an RBI single in the third.
After pitching a 1-2-3 first inning, Aaron Schmitz walloped a solo home run over the left field fence, rounding third base with a wide grin knowing he was circling the bases for the first time this season.
The Tiger starter struck out five of the first nine Eagle batters he faced. Brenden Christensen relieved the senior in the fourth inning to keep him under 40 pitches, allowing him to pitch Thursday.
“He’s (Aaron Schmitz) always focused .. but he knew he had to be focused right from the start ... We knew we needed to get on them early,” said Luther.
“Aaron threw a great game. I can’t say anything more. Even if we gave up one run we still didn’t score,” said East Union head coach Dave Cambpell.
Trevor Jones walked in the fourth inning, giving East Union its first baserunner of the game. Jones reached third after a wide throw at second base on a fielder’s choice play.
The Eagles had runners on first and third with one out in the fourth inning, but back-to-back strikeouts from Christensen ended the contest.
“We just couldn’t find the gaps. (That) seemed like the story of our year,” said Campbell. “We’ll re-tool and they’ll work harder and come back stronger.”
The loss ended East Union’s season with a 3-21 record as the Eagles will lose seniors Brayden Martinez, Kyle Campbell, Patrick Groves, Colton Abell and Jones.
Coach Campbell struggled to find words as to how much the seniors meant to him.
“The main thing is I’ve had them since they were eight, 10 years old. It’s just hard to see them go. They’re good kids. They’ll be hard to replace,” said Campbell as he battled back stronger emotions.
Lenox faced Lamoni on June 25 and won 5-3 behind 5 and 1/3 innings pitched from Christensen.
Luther expects the Demons to be a test, but one the Tigers should handle if they have aspirations of continuing their season.
Lenox 16, East Union 0 (4)
R H E
EU 000 0 — 0 0 3
Len (13)12 x — 16 11 1
EU: Joshua Hardy 0K 2BB 1HBP, Ethan Mitchell (1) 0K 2BB, Trevor Jones (1) 3K 1BB 1HBP and Brayden Martinez. Len: Aaron Schmitz 5K 0BB, Brenden Christensen 2K 0BB and Colton Gordon. W — Schmitz (5-1). L— Hardy (2-5). HR — A. Schmitz 1. 3B —None. 2B — Derek Venteicher 1. RBI— Len: Danny Ramirez 4, Zach Schmitz 2, Hogan 1, A. Schmitz 1, Brenden Christensen 1, Cullen Wood 1, Gordon 1. Multiple hitters — Len: Hogan 2, A. Schmitz 2, Z. Schmitz 2, Ramirez 2.