SIOUX CITY | Christian Cabney was oozing with confidence after each inning he pitched Wednesday night.
Staked to a 2-0 lead after East’s baseball team scored twice in the bottom of the third inning in the opening game of a doubleheader against No. 1-ranked and defending Class 3A state champion Harlan, the senior right-hander pitched his best game of the season.
“We knew coming in that recently, I haven’t been throwing well, but I knew I needed to get the first out of every inning and I needed to get ahead in counts right away,” said Cabney, who scattered five hits and struck out four in 6 1/3 innings as the Black Raiders stunned Harlan 4-2 in the opener, but the Cyclones scored 10 runs in the top of the fifth inning of the nightcap en route to posting a 12-4 triumph.
“That’s how we were more successful. I had a couple of pitches working. That’s what I had today. Pretty much every inning I had the first out. That’s why we're so successful. We were putting up zeroes. The beginning of the season I wasn’t throwing that well, but now I’ve figured out what it was and I’ve gotten better.”
Cabney hiked his season pitching record to 2-1. He allowed single runs in the fourth and fifth innings, leaving after Harlan’s Connor Bruck walked with one out in the top of the seventh, throwing 95 pitches. East junior Christian Peterson struck out the two batters he faced and Coach Kevin Dicus’ squad handed the Cyclones their first loss after 18 straight wins.
“(Cabney) was lights out,” said Dicus. “My hat’s off to him. He did a great job. He came to play today. It was by far his best outing of the year. He’s a kid that throws the ball well. I’m proud of him for being on today.
“I challenged our pitchers today about going deeper in games. We just can’t keep going into the third and fourth innings, especially this week with seven games and playing four straight days. We have to have our starters go deep because with the pitcher limit rules, it puts a damper on you.”
Consecutive singles from Nate Zyzda and Kyle Burns, the No. 8 and No. 9 batters, put East in business in the third inning. Lucas Drent advanced both runners with a sacrifice. Zyzda scored on a passed ball and Burns scored on Sam Chadwick’s fielder’s choice.
Harlan, which was coming off a 7-6 eight-inning Hawkeye 10 Conference win over Lewis Central Tuesday night, pulled within a run in the fourth, but East regained the two-run advantage in the bottom of the fourth. Rafi Mejia doubled and scored on Alec Patino’s fielder’s choice for a 3-1 lead.
“We have a really good team on offense and I needed them in that game,” said Cabney. “We came out and we pounded the ball. We were getting base hits and we were scoring. I was very pleased with the way they played.
“You have a lot of momentum on your side and then you pitch a lot better because you have people who can put the ball in play. When I came in today, my mindset was, (Harlan) has nothing on me. I came in with a swagger and I showed them what I can do. I feel great that I gave them their first loss. Now I hope I keep pitching like that the rest of the season.”
East (9-13) rallied from a 2-0 deficit to score three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning of the second game. Lucas Drent singled and took third when Beau Bosley’s screaming grounder was mishandled by third baseman Connor Bruck and sailed into left field.
Josh Nutt and Rafi Mejia were hit by pitches. Bosley tied the game on Patino’s RBI single, then Nutt scored on Colton DeRocher’s single.
Nutt (1-2), the eventual losing pitcher, retired the first two Cyclones he faced in the top of the fifth, but the next 13 batters he faced reached, including Nick Foss, whose three-run double provided a 5-3 lead and, the eventual game-winning hit.
“We were all just trying to get up there and get good at-bats,” said Harlan designated hitter Jared Moss, his team’s leader with four hits in the nightcap, including a three-run double in the fifth. “After East took the lead, we just said keep playing ball, keep playing like we do and everything will work out. We just had to put the bat on the ball and make plays.”
“Granted we got the first two outs of that inning, but then we allowed 13 straight guys to reach,” said Dicus. “That’s been our nemesis the last two years. One crooked inning hurt us.”