TRURO — Nodaway Valley jumped on West Central Valley sophomore ace Bryce Kearns early in a 6-1 win here Tuesday in the Class 2A District 14 semifinals.
Kearns entered the contest with an ERA of 1.22 with 140 strikeouts compared to just 22 walks in 92 innings pitched.
But, the Wolverines weren’t intimidated as senior Ryan Williams got things started with a one-out triple deep in the right-center gap in the bottom of the first inning. Trevor Jameson beat out an infield single to the left side, as Williams jetted home.
“Kearns, he’s a tough competitor,” Nodaway Valley head coach Dan Jameson said. “He throws extremely well out there. It was real important to break the ice first and get after it. That was big.”
In the bottom of the second inning, it was the bottom of the order that got things going for the Wolverines.
After one out, Colton Garside reached on an infield error. Nine-hitter Baley Shantz followed with a hard-hit double into the right-center gap, putting runners on second and third with one out for the top of the order.
Zach Eblen then smacked a double deep into the same gap that both Williams and Shantz had found already, scoring both baserunners to put the Wolverines up 3-0.
“Getting two more there, keep tacking on, the guys were fired up,” coach Jameson said. “They were sitting on his fastballs and hitting them. We did a nice job. We put the ball in play a lot today. Seven K’s against him, he’s a strikeout machine and we did a nice job of putting the ball in play.”
Meanwhile, Nodaway Valley starting pitcher Casey Ladd did a nice job of staying out of trouble against the West Central Valley hitters.
Ladd threw five scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and issuing one walk while striking out two. He never allowed a baserunner to get farther than second base.
In the top of the fourth inning, West Central Valley had one on with one out when Alex Long hit a rocket line drive down the third base line. But NV third baseman Williams snared it with a backhand catch and threw to first in time to double off the runner to end the inning.
“Can’t ever turn down a double play,” coach Jameson said. “Ryan did a nice job, caught the ball and has a quick release to double him up at first base. Can’t ask for anything more.”
West Central Valley pushed one across in the top of the sixth inning to cut the lead to 3-1, but Nodaway Valley responded with three more in the bottom half of the frame.
Eblen led off by getting plunked with a pitch and Williams reached on an infield error. Jameson then drove in two with a double to left field.
Joe Herr, pinch running for the Wolverines, scored on a Jackson Lamb single up the middle to make the final margin 6-1.
“The guys are coming out, making the plays, staying focused and putting the ball in play tremendously well,” coach Jameson said. “It was an awesome job by the guys tonight.”
The Wolverines, now 13-13 overall, play Interstate 35 in Truro at 7 p.m. Saturday.
“We look forward to playing for a district title,” coach Jameson said.
Former Lenox and Martensdale-St. Marys standout pitcher, and current Southwestern Community College player Ethan Westphal is an assistant coach for West Central Valley.
Nodaway Valley 6, West Central Valley 1
R H E
WCV 000 001 0 — 1 3 2
NV 120 030 x — 6 7 1
Bryce Kearns 7K 0BB 1HBP and Clayton Scott. Casey Ladd 2K 1BB, Trevor Jameson 1K 3BB 1HBP and Zach Eblen. W — Ladd. L— Kearns. HR — none. 3B — NV: Ryan Williams 1. 2B — NV: Baley Shantz 1, Jameson 1. RBI — NV: Jameson 3, Eblen 2, Jackson Lamb 1. Multiple hitters — NV: Jameson 2, Lamb 2.