GRUNDY CENTER - There is something about the rivalry with Gladbrook-Reinbeck that motivates the Grundy Center baseball team.
Despite a 7-17 record, the Spartans advanced to the semifinals of the Class 1A District 5 Tournament after their third win over the Rebels this year.
Grundy Center jumped out to an early lead with timely hitting and Bryce Moats shut the door on a Gladbrook-Reinbeck comeback in the final two innings as the Spartans advanced to play second-seeded Janesville following a 4-3 win over their NICL West rivals at the George F. Wilhelm Sports Complex.
"G-R is our rival," Grundy Center coach Jacob Graffenberg said. "Our guys want to play G-R every single game. We play our best against them and leave it all out on the field."
Jordan Clapp allowed just one hit through five innings for the Spartans before a pair of two-out clutch hits by the Rebels trimmed their deficit to one. That's when Moats was called upon and the Spartan junior got out of the sixth inning with a strikeout and then fanned two more in the seventh inning to preserve the victory.
"We just couldn't put the ball in play early in the game," Gladbrook-Reinbeck coach Jeff Charley said. "When we did put the ball in play, their defensive guys made nice plays. We just got outplayed."
Janesville beat BCLUW, 19-11, in the opening game. Grundy Center will host Janesville in the district semifinal at 7 p.m. Thursday.
"Janesville used a lot of pitchers today. I am not sure what they have left and what they will come back with," Graffenberg said. "I know that our guys are ready to go. They can hit the ball well but we have some pitching coming back for them, too."
The Spartans, who do not play a junior varsity schedule with just 11 players on the team, struck first in the second inning as Tyler Harken led off the inning with an infield single. He took second on a sacrifice bunt and then scored on Grant Weldon's RBI hit.
Clapp, who earned the win on the mound, also reached on an error and scored on a wild pitch from Gladbrook-Reinbeck starter Joe Zimmerman. The Spartans left the bases loaded though and stranded 10 runners in all on the night.
The Rebels' lone hit through the first five innings came from Marco Barron in the third. Shawn Dugan also walked in the inning and both moved up a base on a sacrifice bunt, but a wild throw to third got away, allowing Barron to put Gladbrook-Reinbeck on the board.
The Spartans extended the lead with single runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Harken reached on an error and scored on a bases-loaded walk to Braiden Burrows. Austin Burroughs scored on a Rebel error in the sixth to make it 4-1.
Bryce Ehlers and Logan Flamme both had two-out, run-scoring hits in the sixth to trim the Spartan lead to 4-3. Those hits chased Clapp in favor of Moats, who fanned Baron to end the threat.
Zimmerman reached in the seventh on a Grundy Center error, but Moats began the frame and ended the game with a pair of strikeouts.
"We made it a game late and didn't give up," Charley said. "We could have walked away after they scored that fourth run but they didn't. I am pretty proud of them for that."
Moats also had two hits and a walk to lead the Spartan offense. Harken singled, walked and scored two runs in the victory, while Elliott Eggleston chipped in two hits as well.
Clapp's win included 5 2/3 innings of work. He allowed three hits, one earned run and four strikeouts with two walks. Moats did not allow a hit and three of his four outs were by way of strikeouts.
"It was just one of those nights," Charley said. "We just couldn't put the ball in play tonight. We had opportunities to bring guys around and couldn't do it."
Zimmerman took the loss after surrendering six hits and one unearned run. Barron pitched the seventh and retired the Spartans in order.
Grundy Center's first two wins over the Rebels were by scores of 6-4 and 3-2. The win Tuesday ended the Spartans' five-game losing streak.
Janesville 19, BCLUW 10
This game featured 29 runs, 24 hits and eight combined errors.
The favored Wildcats (16-7) blew a four-run lead and then jumped back ahead for good with a 10-run fifth inning against the Comets, who came into the game having won six of their last 10 games.
In the 10-run inning, Janesville sent 14 batters to plate, collected six hits and took advantage of two Comet errors.
"We hit it well all the way through, but we struggled with location on the mound and our defense really cost us tonight," BCLUW coach Matt Zoske said. "We gave them a lot of runs."
That big inning came on the heels of BCLUW's eight-run barrage in the fourth inning that included 12 batters, six hits and three Janesville errors.
"If you score that many runs you usually like your chances, but when you walk a lot of guys and make that many errors, you won't win very many games," Zoske said.
Janesville freshman Jack Thode had a big night at the plate, going 4-for-5 with four runs and four RBIs. Tim Swanson also had three hits, while Hunter Meyer, Nick Nelson and Turner Frey each collected two hits in the win. Meyer. who started the game on the mound, and Nelson also each had two RBIs.
Swanson relieved Meyer in the fifth inning and allowed the final two runs of the game but earned the win after minimizing the Comet damage.
The first seven batters reached for BCLUW (10-16) in the fourth and Max Callaway's two-run double put the Comets on the board. They also got RBI hits from Clark Jackley, Connor Ubben and Isaac Novak in the frame before Taylor Sams chipped in a big two-out, two-run single in the fifth to push the lead to 10-5.
Janesville though plated 14 unanswered runs and the 10-run fifth was enough to send the Wildcats to Thursday's district semifinal.
"We came out pretty tight," Zoske said. "Once we scored all those runs, I had hoped we may have loosened up. But then we started making some errors and it snowballed."
Lutes took the loss for BCLUW, allowing the first 10 runs. Ubben came on in relief with one out in the fifth and surrendered five more runs in that frame as well as three runs in the sixth.
Caster had two hits and a walk to lead the Comets at the plate, while Callaway and Mitch Miller also had two hits. Cole Silver also scored twice.