Waterloo drops wild regional final, 11-10

Waterloo players get ready to congratulate Quinten Albrecht following his third-inning home run against Columbia on Thursday. (Corey Saathoff photo)

The Waterloo baseball team was going for its third straight regional title in Columbia on Saturday, but ultimately fell short in heartbreaking fashion.

The Bulldogs went up 5-0 on Civic Memorial before relinquishing the lead and falling behind 10-5 going to the seventh inning. A fierce rally tied the game at 10-10 before CM won it in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the seventh.

Erik Kaiser hit a two-run homer in the first and a three-run homer his next time up to put the Bulldogs up 5-0. Civic Memorial battled all the way back, however, and took a 6-5 lead in the fifth inning. Down 10-5 in the seventh, the ‘Dog mounted a rally of their own to make it 10-9 when play was halted due to lightning. Following an hour delay, Waterloo tied the game before CM answered with magic of its own.

The Bulldogs (26-9) lost two close previous meetings with CM — 8-7 in eight innings at home, and 2-0 in Bethalto. Waterloo played in 10 one-run games this spring, going 6-4 in those contests.

The Columbia and Waterloo baseball teams split two prior match-ups this season, so Thursday’s regional semifinal showdown was expected to be a tight ballgame.

The contest lived up to its promise, with the Bulldogs emerging victorious, 3-1, thanks to two bases-loaded walks in the fourth inning.

“There’s really not much difference in talent between Columbia and Waterloo, and it was a hard-fought game,” Waterloo head coach Mark Vogel said. “We found a way to push across two more runs than they did.”

The game was scoreless into the third inning, as both teams stranded the bases loaded and starting pitchers Kaiser for Waterloo and Shane Wilhelm for Columbia wriggled out of jams.

Waterloo catcher Quinten Albrecht led off the fourth inning with a home run over the centerfield fence to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead. Albrecht, a junior catcher who has committed to play at Wichita State University, is hitting .409 this spring with a .563 on base percentage, five homers and 21 RBIs from the leadoff spot.

“He’s done a great job of taking quality at-bats from the leadoff spot and works awful hard at the game,” Vogel said.

Waterloo plated two more runs in the fourth without the benefit of a hit, capitalizing on four walks.

Kaiser, a senior Vanderbilt recruit, walked six Columbia batters of his own and allowed five hits, but struck out seven and made the right pitches at the right times to keep the Eagles from breaking even.

In the sixth, Dylan Hildebrand led off with a triple for Columbia and Zach Rosecrans walked, putting the Eagles in business. But Albrecht threw the Columbia runner out attempting to steal second. That proved to be a big play, considering Columbia’s Greg Long followed that with an RBI single to make it 3-1.

Kaiser was pulled with two outs in the seventh inning due to reaching the IHSA pitch count limit of 105. Reliever Lucas Goodsell hit the first batter he faced, but got a ground ball out to end the game.

Columbia ended its season at 22-11. Long had two hits to lead the Eagles.

“We did not play as well as we are capable, and Waterloo was able to take advantage,” Columbia head coach Neal O’Donnell said. “We made some mistakes, and mistakes, whether mental or physical, are magnified in the postseason.”

The Eagles left 10 runners on base and were unable to get hits in key situations, O’Donnell said.

“Credit their pitcher for making pitches when he had to,” he said.

Columbia returns 16 of its 19 players next season.

(For photos from Thursday’s game, click here.)

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Corey Saathoff

Corey is the editor of the Republic-Times. He has worked at the newspaper since 2004, and currently resides in Columbia. He is also the principal singer-songwriter and plays guitar in St. Louis area country-rock band The Trophy Mules.
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