Pleasant Valley catcher Ryan Thoreson knew his pitcher, Seth Clausen, was on even before Clausen tossed his first competitive pitch.
“In the bullpen, just warming up,” Thoreson said. “He looked good in the pen, I knew he felt good. I knew it was going to be a really good day.”
Thoreson was not wrong as Clausen went out and threw a two-hit shutout of Linn-Mar on Wednesday night in the Class 4A substate final to help the Spartans advance to the state tournament for the third-straight season with a 4-0 win.
Pleasant Valley (34-4) will be the top seed of the last eight remaining teams and will play sometime on July 29.
Linn-Mar came into came this game with an overall record of 18-22 but had pulled off two road wins before taking on the Spartans.
Clausen allowed an infield hit and a base hit to right field. He struck out 11 and induced two flyouts and eight groundouts. Part of his dominating performance was due to a breaking ball that had late movement. It baffled the Lions’ hitters all game.
“He had really good feel for his curveball and he could throw it at any point in the count,” Thoreson said. “Especially this game, his breaking ball was right where it needed to be almost every time.”
Clausen had picked up the win last Friday when he pitched four innings against Cedar Rapids Jefferson in a game that last only four innings. But the senior threw 72 pitches in those four innings of work and fell behind many of the hitters he faced.
Not on this occasion.
“The difference was, last week, I kind of got out of my routine early and those first substate games can kind of give you jitters and that got to me,” Clausen said. “I was much more relaxed, I just felt really confident that I could locate my curveball and my pitches. But my defense was great again. I know that if the ball is in play, that my defense has my back.”
Clausen teamed up with Thoreson to end a threat in the second inning on a nifty strikeout-caught stealing double play. Clausen fanned Linn-Mar’s Isaac Anderson while Thoreson gunned down Dominic Olhava, who was trying to steal second base.
Clausen later helped himself to end the fifth inning when the visitors had runners on first and second with two outs. He made a quick move to catch Anderson too far off of second base, which ended in a rundown.
While the Spartans’ offense did not explode, it got contributions from the whole lineup. Clausen had an RBI single in the first inning to make it 1-0 after Alex Clemons doubled with two outs.
Thoreson pushed the lead to 2-0 when his RBI groundout scored courtesy runner Carsen Williams, who was running for Clausen who had singled to start the fourth inning.
Clemons added his own RBI single in the fifth inning that chased home Caden McDermott after McDermott had tripled with one out. The hosts added the final run in the sixth inning when Carson Albrecht doubled home Ryan Mumey.
Albrecht and Matthew Meyer also had key sacrifice bunts during the game to move runners into scoring positions.
When the season started, the Spartans had a checklist of goals that consisted of a Mississippi Athletic Conference championship, reaching the state tournament and winning the state title.
Two of the three goals have been met.
“We are getting there, and it is a credit to these kids and our community and our school,” PV coach Derek Stecklein said of the accomplishments so far. “We are really excited about things and these guys had lofty goals and expectations and, so far, we have checked every single one off the list.”