NORWALK — Dallas Center-Grimes is going back to Principal Park.
The Mustangs scored five in the first and held off a seventh-inning Norwalk rally to beat the Warriors 5-3 in a substate battle on July 24.
With the win, defending-champion DC-G qualified again for the state tournament. Seeded seventh, the Mustangs (21-13) faced second-seeded Harlan (28-7) on Tuesday.
Jake Lewis went 6 2/3 innings for the Mustangs, working his way out of jam after jam. He struck out eight, walked five, and was one out from closing out a complete game.
A walk, double and error put the tying run on first base, and Max Balzer took over on the mound with a 1-0 count. He struck out Tyler Schilling to end the game and send the team back to Principal.
"Pretty tired, but pretty satisfied," Lewis said. "If anything, it feels better (than last year), harder earned. We lost a lot coming back, but we just hung with it, stuck it out and we were able to get back (to state).
DC-G scored all five of its runs in the first inning, aided by the first five batters recording hits. Tyler Pierson singled, Jake Lewis and Justin Carlyle loaded the bases with bunt singles and Jordan Kloewer swatted a two-run hit. Mike Foggia followed with an RBI double and Balzer plated the fifth with a sacrifice fly.
It was a sudden flood of offense for a team that was just fifth in the Raccoon River Conference in scoring this season.
"If you look at our statistics, we’re not supposed to do that," said coach Byron Peyton. "We’ve gotten better as the season’s gone on and we have nine guys who will battle."
DC-G’s not making any friends in its new conference. The Mustangs, who depart this fall for the Little Hawkeye Conference, beat Knoxville in the district final, then turned away 28-10 Norwalk on the Warriors’ home field.
The team’s return to the state tournament was a season-long goal.
"Last year it was a relief to get in, but this year it’s like a ibg weight off your shoulders," Peyton said. "There was quite a focus here to go back. These guys wanted to get back there. It’s just addicting when you get down there."
"We tasted the water," added Lewis. "Now we all want it again. We’re going to come with that same fire as last year, keep pushing through, and hopefully make another run."