WAPELLO — Wapello High School junior Aiden Housman had a forgettable first two years on the baseball diamond.
Housman, plagued with injuries the last two seasons, more than made up for lost time in Saturday's Class 2A district quarterfinal game against Danville.
Housman, who underwent elbow surgery and a broken thumb last season, came on in relief of Brenton Ross, wriggled out of a pair of jams, knocked in a rn and scored two others to help the Indians to a 6-5 victory at Wapello High School.
Wapello (9-17) advances to play SEI Superconference North Division rival Mediapolis (18-8) in a district semifinal game at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Wilton.
Danville, which edged the Indians, 5-4, on July 2, ends the season with a 2-16 record.
Housman, who had to watch his teammates play last year, was the main character in this game.
"Last season I was recovering from elbow surgery and I wasn't able to throw the ball, so I was batting and running bases," Housman said. "The first base I ran I slid into second and broke my thumb and was out for the rest of the season. It was pretty tough. It was a mental grind having to watch all my friends go out there and have fun and I just had to sit in the dugout, but I'm glad I stuck it out. I picked up a few things watching, too."
"He's done a lot of work to come back and pitch this year. He had an arm injury — non-baseball related, but it prevented him from pitching. He's had a pretty rough go of it his freshman and sophomore years. He was starting as a freshman on defense. Last year the first play of the game he breaks his thumb and he's out for the year. He never got to rehab his arm quite the way he needed to. He had just had surgery on it. He's back this year. He's at a point now where limitations are off," Wapello coach Brandon Brown said.
Danville struck first against Wapello starting pitcher Brenton Ross. Cam Edle doubled to right-center field with one out in the top of the first inning, took second on a ground out by Grifen Molle and scored on a Wapello error.
The Indians countered with three runs in the bottom of the frame. Housman, who was moved to the leadoff spot three weeks ago, singled to left, stole second, was sacrificed to third by Daniel Meeker and scored on a single by catcher Tate Kronfeldt. Kronfeldt later scored on a double by Joseph Stewart, who trotted home on a ground out by Keaton Mitchell to give Wapello a 3-1 lead.
"I'm surprised my coach put me in the leadoff spot a couple weeks ago because I was hitting like a buck 30," Housman said. "He randomly put me there so I was like I might as well run with it. Ever since then I'm batting around .300. I'm glad he took a chance and put me there and we've got our lineup figured out. We have a good one through four and the bottom of the lineup did wonders, too, tonight."
Wapello scratched across another run in the second. Ross drew a leadoff walk and courtesy runner Jake Gustison stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored in a sacrifice fly by Housman.
"To their credit they got some hits when they needed them. They pushed the ball through. They punched the ball to right field and it scored on," Danville coach Chad Vogelgesang said. It's not like we made a tremendous amount of errors or anything. We were sound defensively. They just got the hits when they needed them. That's part of baseball. It's to their credit and I tip my hat to them. Next year we'll be in that position again and hopefully we will come out on top."
Danville clawed its way back in. Molle and Klayton Kleinkopf singled to open the fourth inning. Molle scored on a single by Cody Welch and Kleinkopf later scored on a bases-loaded walk to Caden Boyles to pull the Bears within 4-3.
But the Bears left the bags loaded and left two more runners stranded in the sixth.
After Wapello scored oon singles by Meeker and Mitchell in the fifth, Danville countered with two runs of their own in the sixth on a run-scoring single by Elijah Svoboda and an RBI double by Tristan Miller.
But Housman worked out of the jam and set the Bears down in order in the seventh.
"We had two great games with them to finish the season. We said it would be fun to play a swing game, the third in a series. These were two good baseball games. Nobody wants to lose, but we played good baseball and I think that gives a good indication of where we can take a turn for the program next year," Vogelgesang said.
"I think when you look at their team and our team, I think our records are kind of deceiving," Brown said. "I think you saw some pretty good baseball tonight. I thought you saw two teams that battled. We had some guys get some big RBI hits when we needed them and we got some clutch pitching when we needed it. There was some pretty clean defense there at the end. It was a pretty good ball game. That was two teams really fighting and battling it out."
WP — Brenton Ross (4-5). LP — Grifen Molle (1-2). Leading hitters — Danville: Elijah Svoboda 2-3, Klayton Kleinkopf 2-4. Wapello: Aiden Housman 2-2, Joel Chaney 2-2. 2B — Tristan Miller (D), Cam Edle (D), Kleinkopf, Joseph Stewart (W). RBI — Danville: Miller 1, Cody Welch 1, Caden Boyles 1, Svoboda 1; Wapello: Keaton Mitchell 2, Housman 1, Daniel Meeker 1, Tate Kronfeldt 1, Stewart 1.
Records: Danville 2-16, Wapello 9-17.