Baseball ends historic run in state championship game, first since 1988

Posted August 1, 2023

The Ames baseball team ended its historic season in the IHSAA state championship game, falling to top-seeded Johnston, 6-5 in an extra inning thriller. The postseason run included victories over No. 1 Ankeny Centennial in a substate final followed by the wins over second-seeded Iowa City High and sixth-seeded Cedar Falls in the state quarterfinals and semifinals.

In the state quarterfinals, City High was the first to strike when a DJ Hodges liner to centerfield hopped past a diving catch attempt and Hodges was able to make it around to home for an early 1-0 lead. It wouldn’t be until the fourth when Judd Simpson and Austin Gabrielson came home after a trio of Little Hawk errors to give Ames the 2-1 advantage.

Carsten Hanson and Logan Bjerke scored in the top of the fifth inning after a pair of bases-loaded walks from City High. Carter Geffre struck out three batters in the bottom of the inning for the 4-1 Little Cyclone lead. The Little Hawks would score a run in the sixth before Ames exploded for five runs in the top of the seventh: an Aidan Nigh solo home run, Gabrielson scoring on another City error, and Bobby Uthe recording a three-RBI double.

The Little Cyclones would need just about every run as the Little Hawks rallied with five runs once Carter Geffre hit the pitch count limit of 110, after striking out 13 batters in 6.1 innings of work. Ames prevailed to win 9-7 and advance to its sixth all-time state semifinal appearance.

Next up, the Little Cyclones faced another college town foe in the state semifinals in Cedar Falls. The Tigers had just won their first-ever state tournament game two days earlier after upsetting No. 3 Southeast Polk.

The Little Cyclones would break the tradition of their previous three postseason games by scoring first via another Bobby Uthe RBI double. The hit scored Josh Motl and Graff Linder in the top of the second inning. Ames doubled its tally in the the third when Braydon Beelner scored Austin Gabrielson from an RBI single. Beelner would score a few moments later after an errant pick-off attempt at second base.

The Tigers would get one back in the bottom of the fifth with an RBI single to short right field. Otherwise, the Tigers struggled to score against Ames’ Easton Mittelstaedt on the mound. Mittelstaedt would hit the pitch limit in the top of the seventh after recording an out – just two away from securing a complete game.

After a pair of pitching changes, Braydon Beelner came on to record the final two outs for the Little Cyclones. Cedar Falls scored two runs to draw the score to 4-3, setting up a scenario for Beelner that most can only dream of: a one-run lead, bases-loaded, two-out, full count scenario … just an out away from a state championship game appearance.

In the most important pitch of his life, Beelner delivered: getting the third-out strikeout and sending the Little Cyclones to their first championship game appearance since 1988.

In front a packed house Friday night for the state championship, the Little Cyclones held the lead after an explosive five-run second inning. Johnston – winners of four of the last seven state baseball championships – chipped away at the Ames 5-3 advantage. The Dragons plated a fifth inning run to get with 5-4. Johnston then tied it in the bottom of the seventh, but the Little Cyclones extended the game by turning a double play on a base-loaded, one-out situation. The Dragons eventually walked it off with with a shallow fly to right field.

The Little Cyclones ended the season breaking the school record for wins in a single campaign (31-14) in addition to their first state tournament appearance since 1995 and first finals appearance since 1988.

A celebration of the season will take place on Tuesday, August 1 at the ballpark at the 24th Street Athletic Complex in Ames. The ceremony will start at approximately 7:00 PM.