GRUNDY CENTER - Brandon Kelley kept his sunglasses on as he shook hands with every one of his players and gave each one of them encouragement yesterday evening, and maybe it was on purpose. Coaches don't like to show too much emotion in front of their pupils.
Or maybe it was simply because the sun was still shining bright.
We'll never know.
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
Northeast Hamilton base runner Stephen Chamness (21) gets caught in a pickle between first and second base during the first inning of yesterday evening’s Class 1A District 11 quarterfinal against Gladbrook-Reinbeck in Grundy Center. Rebels’ shortstop Parker Bolt (15) eventually tagged out Chamness.
Whatever the reason, Kelley - Northeast Hamilton's baseball skipper for the past 13 years - held up well in the minutes following the end of his coaching career. He was forced to exit the stage following the Trojans' 5-2 loss to Gladbrook-Reinbeck in a Class 1A District 11 quarterfinal at the George F. Wilhelm Complex.
"It really hasn't hit home yet just because it's so fresh, but I'm sure in a week from now it will," Kelley, who will be the secondary principal at Colo-NESCO in the fall, said about the end of his reign in uniform. "We were in (last night's) game right up until the last inning, so I'm happy."
Senior wunderkind Marcus Mechaelsen met the same fate, but he didn't go down without a fight. The right-handed pitcher allowed just five hits and only one earned run while striking out eight in his final game. He finished the season with a 1A-leading 149 strikeouts.
Northeast Hamilton000 002 0-2 6 5
Gladbrook-Reinbeck220 100 x-5 5 3
Marcus Mechaelsen and Gabe Rapp. Austyn Smith, Brady Billerbeck (7) and Bryce Ehlers, Brady Kuehl (7). W-Smith. L-Mechaelsen. S-Billerbeck. 2B-NEH: Rapp; G-R: Billerbeck (2). 3B-G-R: Parker Bolt. RBI-NEH: Rapp, Austin Smith; G-R: Joe Zimmerman (2), Billerbeck.
Mechaelsen earned all-state recognition in football and basketball during his days in a Trojans' uniform, and he was also a state place winner in track. He started on the diamond as an eighth grader in 2008 when Northeast Hamilton reached the Class 1A state tournament.
"I accomplished a lot and I'm happy about that, but I just wish I could play a couple more games in a Northeast Hamilton jersey," Mechaelsen said.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck (16-11) plated two unearned runs in the first inning and two more in the second to bolt out to a 4-0 lead - an advantage the Rebels never relinquished. Northeast Hamilton (8-19) made all five of its errors in the first two frames, and they ended up being the difference.
"We knew this was going to be tough and we knew we were going to have to make a lot of plays, but that's how it goes sometimes I guess," Mechaelsen said. "I know all the kids were giving 100 percent, so I don't get mad at them. We've got young kids out there and they gave it everything they had."
The Rebels only earned run came in the fourth inning to push the margin to 5-0. Lead-off stick Parker Bolt lined a shot into the gap in right-center field for a stand-up triple, and he scored a few pitches later on an RBI grounder off the bat of Joe Zimmerman.
Zimmerman also drove in a run in the second on a groundout.
NEH began to time Rebels' starting pitcher Austyn Smith in the sixth. Stephen Chamness and Logan Seiser opened the inning with back-to-back singles, and Gabe Rapp put the Trojans on the board with a third consecutive knock - an RBI double down the left-field line that scored Chamness. Seiser scored moments later on a RBI grounder by Austin Smith.
The G-R hurler escaped more trouble when he induced Mark Frohwein to hit a ground ball up the middle. Bolt came over from short to field the ball; he stepped on second to erase Smith and then fired to first to finish off the inning-ending double play.
The Rebels turned the ball over to southpaw Brady Billerbeck - the ace of the staff - in the seventh and he retired the Trojans in order.
"We were just overpowered (in the seventh)," Kelley said. "Billerbeck has had arm trouble this season, but we knew if we didn't get the lead before he came in it probably wasn't going to be a good thing."
Billerbeck also smoked a pair of doubles to right-center, the first coming in the opening inning to score a run.
NEH finished with six hits. Jacob Brim went 2-for-3 out of the No. 9 hole in the lineup, and Chamness also had two hits in three plate appearances in the No. 3 spot.