SIOUX CITY -- East’s Nate Zyzda has had a great season on the mound for the Black Raiders. The senior had a 2.78 earned run average coming into Friday’s Class 4A substate quarterfinal against West.
But seeing Zyzda warming up helped give the Wolverines, the No. 5 seed, some confidence. It was just a few days ago that West scored five runs against Zyzda in a 6-4 Wolverine victory.
West started to pepper Zyzda right away and with the help of a couple of Black Raider errors, the Wolverines jumped out to a 5-0 lead on second-seeded East in the first inning.
Senior Alec Nieman settled in for the Wolverines on the mound and West kept adding to its tally, finishing off East’s season with a 10-0 five-inning victory to advance to the 4A substate semifinals at Waukee on Monday.
“That was our third time seeing (Zyzda) so we were used to seeing him. (East) talked crap the whole year and we were just tired of it,” said West senior Matt Elgert, who went 2-for-2 with two runs scored and drew two walks. “We just faced him Monday and we peppered him pretty good. We were just ready for it. It feels so awesome to beat East on my senior year. Five innings, too. That feels good.”
West coach Beau Brown was a bit surprised that Zyzda got the start against West (18-20) after the Wolverines tagged him for five runs on Monday.
“I was really proud of how the guys came out and played tonight. This is what we’ve been working for all year,” Brown said. “We played East earlier in the week and they threw Zyzda and we beat him and hit him pretty well. It wasn’t just Zyzda that we hit. We hit Patino pretty well as well.
“What I enjoyed the most, the guys had a calm, collective attitude at the plate the entire time. Just overall a quality game and I like the guys’ mindsets right now.”
Six of the runs came against Zyzda. The other four runs came against Alec Patino, who had a 2.48 ERA in 36 ⅓ innings and has struck out 63 batters. Zyzda had 12 strikeouts against West in the first meeting back in May and Patino had 13 in the second game of that doubleheader.
The Wolverines hit both pitchers hard in order to advance to the 4A substate semifinals.
“(We are) a much different ballclub (now),” Brown said. “It’s all a credit to the hard work they put in and improving as the season has gone on.”
This was the third time West had seen Zyzda this season but it was the first time East saw Nieman, who has had a solid senior season for the Wolverines. Nieman had a 3.19 ERA coming into Friday’s contest with 50 strikeouts in 59 ⅓ innings.
Nieman came into the game with eight wins and a five-run lead was more than enough for him. East didn’t get its first hit off Nieman until the fourth inning.
He gave up only two hits, walked two and struck out one in four innings as Nieman picked up his ninth win of the season.
“We always hit well for (Alec) and he always pitches well for us. We play good defense for him. We always feel good when he is out there,” Elgert said.
But a big lead early didn’t guarantee victory for the Wolverines, who have blown a few big leads this season and lost a few more close games.
Elgert said the team didn’t think about that and just wanted to keep piling it on. The Wolverines did with a run in the second and four more in the fifth.
Brown said that shows how much the team has grown this season.
“I know that this is a quality ballclub and I think the biggest thing, when we were losing those, we had a different mindset,” Brown said. “It was ‘don’t hit the ball to me’ rather than staying cool, calm and collective and playing baseball the best they can. Outside of a game last week, we’ve been playing solid defense. Pitching has looked phenomenal, especially out of our top arms. The bats started to come around.”
Allex Eslick drove in four runs in the game and Jaren Hollingshead and Brady Larson each drove in two runs. Nieman was 2-for-4 with three runs scored and an RBI and Jesse Elgert drew two walks and scored twice. Colby Nieman drove in a run and Skylar Hansen was 2-for-4 with a run scored.
East seemed to be hitting its stride, winning nine of its 13 games in July. The Black Raiders second half helped them pull past Waukee for the No. 2 seed.
But East’s season ends with a 26-15 record.
“Just got our butts beat,” East coach Kevin Dicus said. “Hats off to West. They played a heck of a game. It wasn’t our night.”