ANKENY | When Mason City players, coaches and fans look back on Wednesday’s Class 4A substate final at Ankeny Centennial, they’ll remember a few things.
They’ll remember just how dominant Zach Hendrickson was on the mound for six innings. They’ll remember Hunter Dingman, who was out with a broken wrist, nervously/confidently pacing back and forth in the dugout encouraging the team. They’ll remember how much this team had gone through just to get to this point.
But more importantly, they’ll remember this scrappy group of guys that fought through adversity and defied the odds to punch their tickets to the state baseball tournament for the first time since 2011.
“Words can’t describe it right now. It’s amazing,” Hendrickson said. “This has been our goal since we all came together and played baseball, and to be able to go to Principal Park is a dream come true for all of us.”
From facing crushing injuries to dealing with defeats that seemed impossible to climb back from, this Mohawk team threw it all out Wednesday and played one of its best games of the year in a 6-3 win over Centennial.
And of course, the Mohawks even had to go through a little bit more of that adversity to get there.
After a 30-minute lightning delay, the Jaguars scored twice in the bottom of the first to take a 2-0 lead, but the Mohawks weren’t about to go away.
“I thought the way this game began I thought 'Of course! Of course we’re going to have a lightning delay. Of course that’s going to happen. We’re going to have to be in a jam and we’re going to have to think about that for a half hour,” Mason City coach Troy Rood said. “Our guys are just so tough skinned and they came out and I don’t think they ever wavered during that half hour.”
Mason City bounced back from the deficit immediately in the top of the second when Dylan Voves tied the game on a two-run double off the fence in center field. Carson Parker followed with an RBI single, and then Weston Schultz put Mason City up 5-2 with a one-run double.
The Mohawks and Jaguars traded runs in the fifth inning, and Mason City went into the final two frames with a three-run lead.
After the shaky start on the mound, Hendrickson was lights out all the way through the sixth. He finished with 10 strikeouts and two walks while allowing seven hits.
“It’s crazy how nervous I was at the beginning of the game,” Hendrickson said. “After the first few batters I settled in. I gave up two runs because it took awhile for me to settle in, but after that I got in the zone. I was able to locate my fastball, hit inside corner, hit outside corner, and could locate my curveball and slider if I needed to.”
With Hendrickson at his pitch limit after six, Bryce Butler came in to slam the door for the three-out save. With a strikeout for the last out, the party was on as the Mohawks swarmed Butler in a dog pile.
“I was speechless at that point,” Parker said. “We’ve been after this for a long time, and to see it finally come true is hard to explain.
“These guys are brothers to me and I’m glad they were on the field. Principal Park is going to be a dream come true,” Parker said.
Mason City will square off with Dowling Catholic in the Class 4A state quarterfinals next Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. inside Principal Park in Des Moines.