For the first time this season, the Ankeny Centennial baseball team was forced to battle deep into the late innings in both ends of a doubleheader on Monday.
The top-ranked Jaguars went on to sweep No. 5 Dowling Catholic by scores of 2-1 and 5-1 on their home field, completing a sweep of the season series. They improved to 14-2 in the CIML Conference and 22-2 overall, while the Maroons’ records dropped to 8-8 and 17-8.
Centennial leads No. 3 Johnston (13-4) by 1.5 games in the league standings.
“It was fun to compete more in this game beyond the first two innings,” Centennial junior Joey Oakie said after the opener. “It was nice to win a close game, because (Dowling) is going to be a state tournament team. It’s nice to come out of there with a win.”
Oakie (6-0) outdueled Kaden Marso in the first game. He tossed a three-hitter and had nine strikeouts while lowering his ERA to 0.20.
After the Maroons scored an unearned run in the first inning, Centennial tied it in the second. Kyle Miller led off with a walk, advanced to third on a pair of wild pitches, and then came home on a balk.
Marso then cruised through the next four innings, giving up only a two-out single by Nick Severson in the third.
“He was locating well and throwing his off-speed well,” Miller said. “He’s a really good pitcher.”
Dowling threatened to take the lead in the sixth after an infield hit, a wild pitch and a grounder put a runner at third base with one out. But Oakie retired the next two batters on a strikeout and a grounder to end the inning.
“I knew I could get out of it,” Oakie said. “And I knew if any balls were put in play, my defense would make a play. I was 100 percent confident I would get out of that inning.”
In the bottom of the seventh, Miller reached on an error to open the inning. His grounder to third was misplayed by George Nahas.
“I really was just trying to put it in play,” Miller said. “That was a two-strike approach. The coaches teach us a lot to stay short in that situation.”
Oakie then followed with a perfectly placed bunt to the right side that he beat out for a hit.
“I was trying to get it down to get Kyle to second, but it was nice that it went right down the line,” Oakie said. “I had all the confidence that he would get on (base). I told him if he did I would bunt him over. And then it happened.”
The game ended when Lucas Bruhl followed with another bunt, and Marso threw the ball into right field for an error. Miller trotted home as the Jaguars came storming out of the dugout.
“It was a great opportunity for us tonight to play in a state tournament type atmosphere against an outstanding ranked team, and we saw two of their better pitchers,” said Centennial coach Mark Hey. “I was really happy with the way we battled. It’s good to have those tight games where you have to learn how to close them out, and I thought we did a much better job tonight than we did Thursday at Urbandale.”
Marso lost despite allowing just one earned run on two hits. He walked three and had six strikeouts in a 75-pitch outing.
Oakie, who threw 102 pitches, likely would not have been able to complete another inning if the game had been extended.
“My location could have been better, but it got better as the game went on,” Oakie said. “(Marso) mixed his pitches very well. He had a good three-pitch mix, and he was locating really well. Our bats weren’t too hot. We’ve got to bring more energy the next time.”
In the nightcap, Centennial used a four-run sixth inning to break a 1-1 tie. Emerson Alberhasky singled to drive in the go-ahead run, then Cole Grider followed with a two-run triple.
Alberhasky (4-0) was also the winning pitcher. He tossed a six-hitter and had six strikeouts.
“He’s just an outstanding all-around player–pitching, defense and hitting,” Hey said of Alberhasky.
Alberhasky went 2-for-3 while batting eighth in the Jaguars’ lineup. He is now hitting .383.
Grider, meanwhile, is a formidable No. 9 hitter. He was a third-team all-state pick as a junior.
“I think that’s one of the benefits we have,” Hey said. “There are no spots in our lineup that the opposing team can look at and see a hole. We don’t get worried with where we are in the lineup with the game on the line.”
Severson went 2-for-4 with a double. Miller had an RBI double in the third inning, and Isaac Bruhl also drove in a run.
The Jaguars will host a conference doubleheader against Valley (10-15) on Wednesday.