AKRON, Iowa | Akron-Westfield barely had to break a sweat in the process of dismantling River Valley 18-0 in an Iowa Class 1A district baseball semifinal here Thursday night.
The fourth-ranked Westerners scored 10 runs in the first inning and eight in the second, while Dylan Irizarry and Nick Jacobs combined to pitch a no-hitter in the 3 ½-inning contest.
In two district tournament games, Akron-Westfield (29-2) has outscored its opponents 31-1.
“They’re a young team and I’ve been there,” Akron-Westfield Coach Gordy Johnson said. “I was happy with our kids’ approach at the plate. We didn’t go fishing and made them throw strikes and when they did throw strikes we hit the ball.”
River Valley, which closed its season at 9-11, had trouble finding the strike zone, issuing a combined nine walks and hitting two more batters. In the first inning alone, Wolverine hurlers uncorked five wild pitches.
But, like Johnson said, when A-W got pitches to hit, it drove the ball hard all over the field.
“It’s a little difficult to keep your head in the game because we were up that much,” Irizarry said. “But I think our team did a good job tonight with our approach at the plate throughout the game.”
Akron-Westfield advanced to a district final here Saturday night against Kingsley-Pierson, which clipped Woodbury Central 6-5 in the first of two semifinal tilts here Thursday.
“We’re playing a really good team Saturday night, so truthfully it would have been better for us if we would have played a tough game tonight and then another one then,” Johnson said. “They’re really good and we’re going to have to play our best baseball.”
Akron-Westfield finished 25-5 and lost a district final to eventual state champion Remsen St. Mary’s last season. Since then, the Westerners have been focused on making it to the state tournament and have a veteran team loaded with talent this summer.
“We have a real good group of kids who work really hard,” Johnson said. “They were calling me in the middle of the winter telling me they wanted to throw on Saturday afternoon. I’ve never had a group of kids get along and have more fun together than this group and it carries over onto the field.”
A-W wound up with 10 hits, two apiece by Irizarry and Conner Anderson. Anderson and Aaron Allard drove in three runs apiece while Cal Eskra and Jacobs each had two RBIs.
The Westerners sent 14 batters to the plate in the first inning and 11 in the second.
Irizarry pitched three perfect innings, striking out two while Jacobs struck out the side in the fourth. The only thing that prevented a perfect game was an error by Irizarry, who moved to shortstop in the fourth inning.
“We’re very confident and focused right now to make it to Des Moines, it’s been our goal for a long time,” Irizarry said. “Last year we got close and we feel this is our year. Kingsley looks tough, but we think we can get them.”
Johnson will have a stable of pitchers available on Saturday – including Irizarry – since neither pitcher threw many pitches in this game. The A-W coach, however, was noncommittal when asked who his starter will be against Kingsley-Pierson.
“I don’t know. I have everybody available, so I’ll have to think on it and we’ll see,” Johnson said. “We’ll see what happens on Saturday night. I know they’ll play their hardest and we’ll give it a shot.”