The Reivers became the first Northern District school ever to win a national championship. Going into Saturday’s game, Iowa Western was only the third team representing the Northern District to be in the national title game. Triton Community College was the previous representative from the north, its last appearance coming in 1993.
The kick start offense continued for the Reivers as sophomore Ivan Hartle led things off in the bottom of the first inning with a double to right center. The crafty lead-off hitter who would eventually score on an errant pick off throw. The Reivers used two hits, a San Jacinto error and four walks to take an early 3-0 lead.
San Jacinto came back in the top of the second inning and put one run on the board to bring the deficit to just two runs. After a scoreless second for IWCC, the Gators came back in the third inning to take the lead 4-3, scoring three runs on four hits and one walk.
With both starters relieved by the fourth inning the offenses were kept at bay for the next four innings with the score still 4-3 going into the eighth inning.
The Gators loaded the bases in the top of the eighth inning with two hits and one error and looked to add to their lead, but sophomore Scot Donner had other things in mind. Since coming into the game in the bottom half of the third inning, Donner blanked the Gators for the next four innings and didn’t plan on allowing any more runs. He managed to get the fourth Gator hitter to pop out to the first baseman, the fifth hitter struck out and Donner finally forced the sixth hitter of the inning to groundout to the shortstop to leave the bases loaded and give the Reivers momentum going into the bottom half.
With one out in the bottom of the eighth inning sophomore Ryan Hutchison tripled to left center to bring the tying run just 90 feet away. But after a walk and a fielder’s choice, which resulted in Hutchison being thrown out at home, the Reivers hopes of tying looked bleak with two outs and runners on first and second. With one strike on freshman Brandon Bass, head coach Marc Rardin called for a double steal putting the tying run 90 feet away and the winning run in scoring position. The next pitch from the Gator closer was in the dirt and got away from the catcher to score freshman Adam Lavelle to tie the game and move the winning to third.
With the count 2-2 Bass smoked a groundball back up the middle to score Hartle, giving the Reivers their first lead of the game since the first inning, 5-4.
Going into the top of the ninth, Coach Rardin called on his bullpen once again, this time bringing in freshman Taylor Eikenberry to close the game. Eikenberry retired the side in order. Eikenberry fanned the leadoff hitter to set up possibly the defensive play of the game for the Reivers. The No. 2 Gator hitter lined a shot down the third-base line, but Reiver infielder Brent Seifert snagged it and threw from his knees to bring IWCC one out closer to the school’s first national title. Eikenberry struck out the final Gator hitter to set off a wild victory celebration.
Scot Donner would record the win on the mound throwing a scoreless 5.2 innings allowing only four hits while striking out four. Eikenberry would record his first save of the year throwing a perfect ninth inning striking out two.
At the plate the Reivers were led by sophomores Ivan Hartle and Ryan Hutchison who went a combined 4-for-8 with two runs scored and one RBI.
Named to the All-Tournament team from Iowa Western were catcher Anthony Bemboom, pitcher Taylor Eikenberry and infielders Brent Seifert and Ivan Hartle, also named the Preston Walker Most Valuable Player and Jay Tolman Outstanding Defensive Player.
Head Coach Marc Rardin was also named Coach Of The Tournament.
Head Coach Marc Rardin had this to say about winning a National Title:
“It is all just a great and wonderful dream. We just didn’t want any of it to end. A lot of work was put into this championship by the student/athletes and coaching staff, and every single bit of it was worth it. Some things are just meant to be and some things you have to go out and make them happen. This team found away for both things to transpire throughout this tournament run. We got some calls and some breaks. We also had our share go against us. We lost flyballs in the night game vs Southern Nevada, Southern Nevada lost a flyball in sun the next time we played. That extended an inning in which Seifert would hit the walk-off homerun. That’s getting breaks and then taken advantage of them. Those things went on throughout our run to the Championship.
I have a saying up in my office – “The harder you work the luckier you get”. This group of guys worked as hard as any group that I’ve ever had in my eight years at Iowa Western. They deserve breaks to go their way and for great things to happen to them in the long run.
This team got to play the games on the field, and hoist up the trophy over their heads after the game. But none of this was possible without the incredible support we get from our administration. Our President is the best junior college President in the business, our Athletic Director is the hardest working boss in junior college athletics. The Iowa Western faculty and staff are the best in the Midwest hands down. The support and assistants they provide to our student/athletes is nothing less than 1st class. Our guys will have the title as National Champions when they leave our campus, but more importantly they will leave IWCC better prepared for life after baseball because of the people who work with them at Iowa Western.
On behalf of Reiver Baseball and the coaching staff I want to thank the coach’s wives for their support and understanding for what goes into our occupation. I also want to thank everyone throughout the administration, student services, faculty/staff and last but not least our maintenance department. Without every one of these departments and the people within them Reiver Baseball would not be where it is today. NATIONAL CHAMPIONS!!! ”