Dallas Center-Grimes scored four unearned runs in the first, then held off a seventh-inning rally to edge Ballard 4-3 on Monday in Dallas Center.

Nate Kearney closed out the game in the seventh in relief of winning pitcher Sam Wadsworth. Kearney entered with two on and no one out. Ballard pulled within one on an infield hit, and a hit batter loaded the bases with two outs, but Kearney knocked down a comebacker by Taylor Bridgewater and threw him out from his knees at first base.

"To his credit, he threw a good pitch and made a good defensive play to knock the thing down," coach Byron Peyton said.

Aided by a pair of Ballard errors, the Mustangs broke through with two outs in the first. Jake Lewis sent a grounder down the first-base line and through the legs of the first baseman, scoring Justin Carlyle, who had doubles, and Mike Foggia, who had walked.

Lewis and Max Balzer came around to score after Cole Baker’s sky-high fly ball to left field was dropped.

"We put the guys on base and we put the ball in play," Peyton said.

DC-G nearly broke the game open in the second but failed to capitalize on a bases-loaded, no-out situation created by a pair of walks and a single. Lewis’s liner to short stop was snagged, and Balzer lined out to pitcher Coy Baker, who flipped to third for the inning-ending double play.

"That could’ve cracked the thing open in the second inning and maybe even drive the pitcher from the game," Peyton said.

The Mustangs, who entered the game with a .213 cumulative average, finished with six hits, including two by Tyler Pierson. They struggled against Baker’s constant breaking pitches, despite getting a steady diet of them.

"It seems like we’ve seen so many pitchers this year who throw curve ball after curve ball, just a tremendous amount of them," Peyton said. "We couldn’t hit it so I guess that’s what he should do."

Wadsworth entered after Lewis pitched a scoreless first inning and went five-plus innings, surrendering three runs, two earned, on two hits and a balk while striking out six.

"I thought he was pretty good," Peyton said. "For the most part he’ll pound the strike zone and they’ll put it in play. He gets a lot of hitters to mis-hit the ball. He’s pretty effective."

The Mustangs, who improved to 7-5 with the victory, are getting every team’s best shot as the reigning Class 3A state champions. Peyton said that this season’s team must forge a new identity separate from last season.

"I think we’ve been walking out on the field with the mentality that we are last year’s team, and that’s not the case at all," he said. "I think at times we’ve played like we’re supposed to be really good, instead of playing like we’re really wanting to be good, and I think there’s a difference.

"We’ve talked about that more than once and I hope they kind of catch on to that. We need to prove to ourselves that we’re a good team."

DC-G also beat Des Moines Lincoln 6-2 on Tuesday. Cole Baker struck out seven and Colin Schroeder had a two-run triple.

The team also grabbed a 2-1 victory over Bondurant-Farrar on June 13. Baker pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowing one run on three hits and striking out six, and Kearned closed out the final 2/3 inning for the win. Foggia doubled twice and scored a run, Parker Schutt drove in a run and Pierson collected two hits, including a double.