Troy Rood has coached many baseball games in Mason City.
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He’s had his fair share successes that included deep postseason runs at the state tournament. The other side of this coin is feeling the heartache that comes with a season ending so quickly.
According to his own admissions, Monday night is one of the most heart-wrenching loss nights.
Ankeny Centennial, fifth in Class 4A, scored two runs at the seventh inning to win 2-1 over the Riverhawks. It also set up a top-five matchup against Johnston in Wednesday night’s Substate 2 final.
Rood believed Mason City would have been a formidable opponent to the Dragons for the right to visit Iowa City next Tuesday.
“Recent bias, it is probably one of the top three or five,”Rood said. “It was absolutely soul-crushing. If (Mason City) would have came to town tomorrow night, we’re going to have a fight on our hands.”
It was a classic pitchers duel between Carter Thomas, a Riverhawks senior, and Easton Pratt, a Jaguars’ pitcher. The two pitchers combined for 17 strikes and only seven total hits were lost against them.
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Mason City (22-18), took a 1-0 lead in the third inning thanks to a leadoff triple by No. Thomas and James Fingalsen were the 9 hitters.
Ethen Roberts roped a triple as well, but was left stranded at base.
“Justyn Rivera, with no outs, grounded out to second and James didn’t break,”Rood said. “Luckily, Carter picked us up.”
Thomas, a southpaw and Wayne State student, kept Centennial off-balance with his fastball/curveball combination and off the scoreboard for six innings.
Mason City was 1-0 ahead heading into the seventh.
“It was absolutely impressive,”Rood said. “He was in total control. He was flat out dealing.”
The Jaguars found their life and won.
After Kyle Miller had led the frame with a single, Cole Grider put down a bunt. Thomas fielded it, and was charged with an error. Both Miller and Grider were moved to scoring position by a flyout.
Damin Churchman took one of the plates and sent Centennial into a frenzy.
“I toyed with the idea of intentionally walking him,”Rood said. “I just think having that open base, Carter is going to have more confidence in his breaking ball. Something I’ll think about for many weeks.”
A season that had seen 20 wins in six of the eight previous campaigns ended in a heartbreaking manner. Rood kept the loss in perspective as he drove back to Mason City the day after the loss.
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He didn’t regret any of his actions, moves or games this season.
“You’re going to have the ups and the downs and the key for me is, the healing process always is flipping the page as quickly as possible,”He said. “If I keep dwelling on it, I will eat myself alive. I have to start preparing to be really good in 2023.”
Four seniors have left the program, including three starters, Thomas, Kellar Malk, and Cooper Wiemann. Thomas scored 28 more base hits, drove into 54 RBIs, and had a batting average in the neighborhood of.433.
Wiemann was the block behind and Malek was at first base. Malek batted over.300 with 30 runs batted.
“The hardest part of losing, even when you win a state championship, you don’t get to practice the next day,”Rood said. “Told them I love them and how much better of a person they made me.
“This is not a way to make a lot of money, but it can lead to rich relationships. This is why Mason City High School’s high school baseball coach is the best job in all of sports.”
The cupboard is far from bare with talent.
Leading home run hitter Kaden Tyler and one of the Riverhawks top pitchers in Roberts are expected to return for the 2023 season. Four other starters are likely to return as will six additional players that saw game action in at least 11 games.
A new day as already started and Rood will think about the 2022 season, remember it fondly, then look to 2023. It will be the first year for Mason City in the new Iowa Alliance Conference.
A fresh start for the Riverhawks will soon be taking place and Rood is quite excited for that opportunity.
“I will miss the CIML very much, but this is what I believe is best for our school, and our community.” Rood said. “We have the chance to be very prosperous.”
Zach Martin is a Globe Gazette sports reporter. Reach him via email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @zach_martin95.