The year that could have been
Eighth-seeded Washington had the top-ranked team in Class 3A, Dallas Center-Grimes, on the ropes in the quarterfinals of the state baseball tournament. The Demons had already scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to tie the game, and they had runners on first and second with just one out.
Unfortunately, the Mustangs escaped the jam and went on to win 3-2 in nine innings. It would be the closest Dallas Center-Grimes would come to a loss in the tournament, as the Mustangs rolled over their final two opponents by a combined 23 runs to win the Class 3A state championship.
“We talked about giving them the best game of the tournament,” Washington head coach Nathan Miller said following the quarterfinal contest last Tuesday.
The Demons did. And it marked the second time in the 2011-12 school year that a Washington team had the eventual state champion on the ropes and just couldn’t quite finish. The Demon football team faced La Porte City Union in the opening round of the Class 3A state playoffs and took a one-point lead with just over two minutes remaining in the game.
Quarterback Jake Redlinger found senior Brock Kimball wide open in the end zone for a 31-yard touchdown pass with 2:02 remaining, and when the Demons decided to go for the two-point conversion and the lead, Redlinger hit senior Colin Steele in the end zone to make it 15-14.
But the Knights answered with a 59-yard scoring drive that took just 48 seconds and then held on for the win. Union then went on to win the Class 3A state championship.
Steele, along with Redlinger and many other Washington athletes, was a member of both squads that lost epic battles to the eventual state champions. After learning that Dallas Center-Grimes went on to win the 3A state championship this past Saturday, he lamented his feelings on Facebook.
“First football now baseball,” he wrote. “The senior year that could have been.”
But Steele and his teammates have nothing to hang their heads about — from either loss. The Demon football team nearly rallied past a powerful La Porte City Union squad that had a bruising running back and a speedy quarterback who is being recruited by the University of Iowa. That Washington football team had also rallied from a 14-7 deficit with 4:10 remaining at Williamsburg just a few days before to win 21-14 in order to qualify for the playoffs.
The Washington baseball team had lost seven players from a team that reached the semifinals of the state baseball tournament last summer, and no one outside of the community of Washington gave the Demons any chance of winning the Southeast Conference or getting back to Des Moines. Washington did both, finishing in a three-way tie atop the SEC standings and then knocking off No. 2 Grinnell on its way back to Principal Park. Once there, the Demons met the top-ranked team in the first round and nearly toppled the Mustangs.
“I felt like possibly the best two teams played in the first round,” Miller said. “I told the boys after our game that the way they were playing at the time that they had just played in the state championship game.”
The Demons did that twice this year, coming up just short each time. But it was an outstanding year.