ALLEMAN — Six words.
Seven, if you separate the contraction.
“We’re not supposed to be here.”
It is now the new rallying cry for Benton Community.
Senior catcher Aiden Albertsen mentioned it to practically his entire team Monday as the Bobcats prepared to face Class 3A Substate 6 No. 2 seed North Polk at North Polk, and it was mentioned again hours later after the No. 6 seed toppled the Comets, 8-3.
Benton will face Marion on Wednesday for a state tournament berth.
“We’re not supposed to be here,” Albertsen reiterated. “But it’s just baseball. All the pressure was on them.”
Added classmate Landen Schmuecker, “It’s fun to quiet their crowd.”
The Bobcats (14-22) have claimed consecutive postseason road games and did so by scoring first. It took until the third inning, but Benton broke through in a big way in the top of the third inning. Cade Timmerman drew a six-pitch walk off North Polk starter Nick Cox, and Cox came back with a five-pitch walk to Easton Patterson.
Schmuecker fouled off four pitches before cracking a double to plate Timmerman and then Albertsen drove in Patterson on a sacrifice fly for a 2-0 score. Zane Frese then drove in Schmuecker for a 3-0 lead with a single.
“The first run was huge,” Albertsen said. “My first at-bat, I was completely nervous. After that I was like ‘All right, it’s just another game.’”
Benton broke the game open its next at-bat and did so with a string of two-out success.
Timmerman drew another walk, this time on seven pitches from reliever Ben Kvidera. Patterson singled and Schmuecker doubled in Timmerman, then Patterson scored on a wild pitch. Albertsen drove in Schmuecker for a 7-0 lead and courtesy runner Dillon Kerkman scored on Frese’s single for an 8-0 advantage.
Patterson’s single was a six-pitch at-bat while Schmuecker and Frese each forced four pitches. The Bobcats coaxed myriad pitches from Cox, Kvidera and Tate Owen, working the count as much as possible.
An eight-pitch at-bat resulted in a double and a strikeout. Benton coaxed six six-pitch at-bats, with a single, a walk, a sacrifice fly, a pop-up and two strikeouts. Five-pitch at-bats resulted in three walks, two strikeouts, a flyout and a double.
“We were scrappy tonight. I can’t say enough about our lineup tonight. It was scrappy,” head coach Derek Anderson said. “Two-out hits. Two-strike hits. Just fouling pitches off, fouling them off and finding ways to put the ball in play.”
After collecting nine hits against Ballard, Benton picked up eight hits and six walks against the Comets (21-12).
“That’s what happens when you hit the ball,” Albertsen said. “We said coming into the game we had to hit the ball, and if we hit it half as good as we did against Ballard, we’d fill it up and good things would happen.”
As the offense was working itself against the No. 2 seed’s pitching staff, Benton’s defense was showing out — led by Frese’s approach from the mound.
The junior allowed 11 hits, but only three runs crossed the plate. And none crossed until the visitors were ahead 8-0.
“Basically just leave it over the plate, trust my defense,” the junior said of his approach. “I know the guys behind me play really well. We had some crazy good plays, so I just tried to get the defense involved as much as possible.”
One came in the bottom of the third. With the bases loaded, Austin Parkins launched a ball to right field.
Patterson made the catch, then fired home. He hit Timmerman at first as the cutoff, and Timmerman’s throw home was slightly high.
Albertsen came down with the ball and tagged Hunter Manock for out No. 2 to complete the double play.
“It’s 3-0 and they try to get a little bit greedy and Easton makes a nice play, throws it to Cade. And Cade throws a strike to home,” Anderson said. “That got the momentum back in our area because that was the first (two outs) of the inning.
“We made plays — I think I circled six plays where they weren’t high school plays, but web-gem type plays,” Anderson said. “That’s what it takes to win in the postseason.”
One occurred when Schmuecker backhanded a hot crack to third and rifled the ball to get Owen out at first.
Yet another came when Jordan Thys went airborne horizontally to grab out No. 2 in the fifth with two on and one out.
Frese balanced 11 hits, two hit batters and one walk with four strikeouts through 5 2/3 innings.
“My curveball worked well,” Frese said. “Probably worked the best I’ve ever thrown it. If anything, I would have liked to throw it even more than I did.”
Added Albertsen, “After we did our bullpen, (coach Anderson) asked ‘What’s working?’ I said (Frese’s) curveball was working good. The beginning of the game, they couldn’t touch his curveball.”
Thys came on and went 1 1/3 innings of relief. He allowed an unearned run on an error and a one-out sacrifice fly.
Frese, Patterson and Schmuecker each acquired two hits, with two doubles from Schmuecker. Patterson doubled once.
Albertsen, Frese and Schmuecker drove in two apiece. Timmerman walked three times and scored twice.
“It’s big being known as guys who go in seeded lower and not expected to do as well,” Frese said. “Then you go and blow up these teams expected to beat us.”