Grundy Center baseball survives GMG challenge, rallies for postseason victory

Grundy Center's Logan Knaack (second from right) celebrates with his teammates after hitting a walk-off pop fly in the seventh inning of a 2-1 victory over GMG to begin postseason play in Grundy Center on Saturday night. (Jake Ryder photo)
Jake Ryder

GRUNDY CENTER – Logan Knaack thought he had missed the chance to capitalize on a golden opportunity on Saturday night.

Instead, he found himself an incidental hero.

The GMG defense couldn't track down Knaack's towering pop fly in the seventh inning and the Grundy Center baseball team mobbed Knaack in celebration of a comeback, walk-off win, 2-1, in the postseason opener with GMG at the Wilhelm Sports Complex on Saturday night.

Grundy Center (16-8) will play BCLUW, who won the early game in Grundy on Saturday, 2-0, over Clarksville.

The Spartans trailed 1-0 heading to the final inning. They loaded the bases with one out on hits from Bryce Greiner, Tate Jirovsky and a walk for Tanner Laube. Dayne Zinkula brought home Ryker Thoren, Greiner's pinch runner, with a fielder's choice groundout to tie the game.

And then Knaack came to the plate.

"As soon as I hit that ball I thought, 'Crap, we're going to extra innings,'" Knaack said.

But the ball traveled through the July night air and a GMG infielder, backpedaling into the outfield grass, wasn't able to come up with the catch.

While it would have been a remarkable catch given the GMG player's body position at the time of going for the catch, it was nonetheless a heartbreaking result for the Wolverines, and a joyous triumph for the Spartans. Jirovsky was already at home by the time the ball landed for the winning run.

"We've been the same way in all our sports: Our team doesn't give up when we're down," Knaack said. "This was just a perfect, perfect example."

The Spartans had mustered only three hits off GMG starter Zach Krull through the first six innings, and rarely found themselves with runners in scoring position.

But Krull's counterpart on the mound, Brayden Sawyer, held his own as the Spartan offense struggled, finishing with 12 strikeouts and no walks.

"We always know we have a chance to win when he's on the mound," Zinkula said, adding perhaps half-jokingly: "Sometimes we take advantage of that too much and he gets a little mad because we just come into the game assuming that we're gonna win, but we just always seem to pull it out when he's on the mound."

Sawyer is now 7-1 on the mound this season, with six straight victories on the bump since a June 14 loss to AGWSR.

GMG struck first in the fifth inning. Caiden Wobeter singled to start the inning and, after stealing second, advanced to third on a sacrifice by Brayden Duden. Noah Teske put down a squeeze bunt, and a hard-charging Sawyer wasn't able to come up with the ball in the grass to try and tag out Wobeter before he scored the first run of the game.

Grundy head coach Pat Brown Jr. felt the best thing the Spartans could do to respond was to figure out how to get to Krull.

"Krull's a good pitcher, he was throwing strikes, we just had to make adjustments and not try to hit the ball out of the park," Brown Jr. said.

The Spartans tried to work counts and keep Krull throwing, and eventually were able to break through with some nicely hit grounders by Greiner and Jirovsky, both of which didn't even leave the infield. Greiner finished with two of the Spartans' six hits on Saturday.

"At the beginning of the inning, things were a little sketchy," Zinkula said of the seventh. "But once we got a couple of guys on, the dugout got going and Krull started to struggle a little and we just took advantage."

The Spartan skipper has been preaching an elevated mentality in the dugout, making sure that the boys were on the fence to make some noise for the final frame, which the Spartans happily obliged to spark the rally.

"You're not being a jerk by getting up, getting loud and excited," Brown Jr. said. "You've got to play like your hair's on fire, and cheer like you're playing for something."

Saturday's game also serves as a reminder to be wary of the meeting with the Comets (10-12) on Tuesday. It'll serve as a winner-takes-all rubber match after the NICL West teams split their division games during the regular season.

"You can't think you're better than anybody," Knaack said. "It's postseason play now. We were 0-0 coming into tonight, now we're 1-0. We can't take anything for granted and we can't overlook any opponents. We just have to have that mindset that we can win."


Grundy Center 2, GMG 1


WP: Brayden Sawyer, 7 IP, 4H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 12 K. LP: Zach Krull, 6.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 2 K.


GC               AB   R  H  RBI

Zinkula            4    0   1    1

Knaack            3    0   1    1

Sawyer            3    0   0    0

Brown III         2    0   1    1

Gordon            3    0   0    0

Klar                3    0   0    0

Greiner            3    0   2    2

   Thoren          0    1   0    0

Jirovsky           3    1   1    0

Laube              2    0   0    0

Totals            26    2   6    2


SB: Zinkula. Grundy Center 16-8, GMG 8-20 (final).


The Grundy Register

601 G. Avenue - P.O. Box 245
Grundy Center, IA 50638
Telephone: 1-319-824-6958
Fax: 1-800-340-0805

Mid-America Publishing

This newspaper is part of the Mid-America Publishing Family. Please visit for more information.