Erik Kaiser didn’t quite make it to the finish line, but he carried the Waterloo Bulldogs far enough to help them to a 3-1 win over the Columbia Eagles in a Class 3A Columbia Regional semifinal Thursday.
Admittedly not in possession of his best stuff, Kaiser wriggled out of four jams over six innings — giving up just a single run in the sixth — before being relieved because of IHSA pitch count rules with a runner on first and two outs in the top of the seventh.
Lucas Goodsell came on in relief of Kaiser and hit the first batter he faced, Sam Spivey. But he followed that up by getting Dylan Hildebrand to ground out to first to earn himself a save and the victory for Kaiser.
“Of course, any pitcher that gets that far is going to want to finish the game,” said Kaiser (3-3), who is bound for Vanderbilt University on a baseball scholarship. “That’s just part of being a competitor. But I understood that is what the rules are. I am just glad that Lucas came out there and got the job done.”
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Kaiser scattered five hits against the Eagles while striking out six and walking four.
The victory moves the third-seeded Bulldogs into an 11 a.m. regional championship game Saturday against second-seeded Civic Memorial. CM (26-10) reached the title game with a 19-2 rout of Cahokia on Wednesday. Waterloo (26-8) dropped a pair of regular-season meetings to CM.
Columbia (22-11) had the bases loaded and one out in the first inning and failed to score. It left two runners on in the third and fourth. In the sixth inning, when the Eagles got their run on a Greg Long single, they could have had a second runner aboard when Long stepped to the plate, but Brandon Kuchinski had been thrown out trying to steal second.
Waterloo had just three hits in the game against Shane Wilhelm, who pitched the first four innings for Columbia, and reliever Bryce Dell, who handled the final two. The Bulldogs were talked seven times and had two batters hit by pitches.
“We knew it was going to be a one- or two-run game,” said Waterloo coach Mark Vogel, whose team split a pair of regular-season games against Columbia. “It was a little frustrating that we left so many on board early, could not get that big hit to break it open.
“But we’ve been winning on pitching and defense all year, and today was another example of that.”