Perry’s stellar finale performances fall short at Ballard

Sean Cordy - Sports
Head coach Austin Daniels meets with the Bluejays for the last time of the 2019 season. PHOTO BY SEAN CORDY/THE PERRY CHIEF

History has to wait another year. Perry (0-24) baseball entered the first round of the substate tournament Friday, July 19 against Ballard (24-8) with aims of snapping its losing spell and make a postseason run to turn around the season to make history. The Bombers got in the way with a 12-2 win over the Bluejays, a final score that spoke louder than the process.

Senior Kaleb Olejniczak turned in a double and later darted for third in and almost literally pushed in junior Kaden Boyer in for a score in the fifth inning. One stat not in the books, though, Olejniczak’s helmet also flew off as he ran to third to beat out a possible tag. He almost certainly leads the conference in that category.

“He’s a freaking competitor,” Daniels said. “He’s going to wrestle (in college). That’s the definition of competition.”

Additionally, Olejniczak made it safe on base all three plate appearances, making his case for an all-state selection. He finished the season with just five strikeouts in 73 at-bats, making him just one of 60 players in Iowa to have five or fewer strikeouts on at least 70 at-bats.

Things went almost just as well off the rubber to start the night.

Before junior Avery Meister left the mound in the fourth inning, he had five strikeouts in three innings, retiring both the second and third with K’s. By comparison, Ballard’s pitchers fanned just three Perry batters in the first three innings.

“He was consistent, working in and out, wasn’t leaving meatballs. There’s gonna be a couple of hits here and there but he threw better than the score looked. He kept his head up,” Daniels added.

While Meister’s arm by itself kept the Bombers’ runs to a minimum over the first wave of innings, Perry’s sticks took longer to ramp up. They found the board in the fifth and sixth frames to keep the game alive, pushing through senior Conner Kenyon in the last inning.

But with Ballard playing to one-up the Bluejays, the Bombers didn’t hold back either. They put the game away with the biggest inning of the night, posting four runs in the bottom of the sixth.

The blue and white’s late-game theatrics spoke to the larger throughline for the season, though. Facing elimination down by eight after four innings, the Bluejays fought back, not to go quietly into the night.

“It wasn’t always the easiest thing in the world. It wasn’t always the most fun and believe me when I say it didn’t turn out like any of us wanted it. But I told them I’m proud of them for working through it because it would have been a lot easier to throw the towel. These guys didn’t do that, so I’m proud of them and the work they did.”

After opening the season with three shutouts over the first five games, Perry was blanked just once the rest of the season. The Bluejays also strung together a five-game streak of at least two runs to close the season, the second time this year. The first came during the thrilling shootouts with ADM and Saydel in mid-June.

The game was also the last for first-year head coach Austin Daniels who accepted a job at North Polk for the upcoming year.