CASCADE, Iowa — Anthony Ruden would have pitched all night, if that’s what it took.
The right-hander struck out 16 batters and went all 11 innings on the mound late Saturday night to lead Key West to a 4-3 victory over Cascade in the championship game of the 73rd annual Cascade semi-pro tournament. The Ramblers won the title in their first trip to the Cascade championship game.
“I wasn’t coming out,” said Ruden, a former Dubuque Wahlert and Clarke University standout who threw more than 150 pitches, scattered 12 hits, walked one and hit one batter. “Nick (Woltkamp) went to warm up, and I told (manager) Brett (LaMere), I wasn’t coming out until we won or lost. My arm does not feel great right now, but I love pitching and I’m going to keep doing this until I can’t.
“That’s the most strikeouts I’ve ever had in my life. I think I’ve gone 10 innings, but never 11. I’ve always been on kind of a leash, and now that I don’t have to answer to anybody but my own body, it’s kind of nice to just go out and throw.”
Ruden pitched in all of Key West’s games in the tournament en route to being named the MVP of the tournament. He finished with 41 strikeouts.
Ruden pitched from behind most of the night after allowing single tallies in the first, fourth and eighth innings to fall behind, 3-0.
Key West tied the game with one swing of the bat in the bottom half of the eighth against starter Jake Bockenstedt. Jake Blunt led off with a base hit, Lake Rosson reached on a hit batsman, and Kevin Hunley belted a three-run home run to the power alley in left-centerfield to pull the Ramblers even at 3-3.
“We were struggling early on, so I just tried to put the bat on the ball and find a way to help us get back in it,” Hunley said. “It felt awesome. That was one of the coolest things I’ve done in a while. I saw it in the air and thought it might be a double, but it just kind of snuck over. It’s huge to win this. We’d never made it to the championship game of this tournament, so it’s huge for us to get in it and win it.”
The Ramblers started their 11th-inning rally when Logan Kelleher singled off reliever Brad Bockenstedt, and Mike Blake followed with a walk. Leadoff man Anthony Razo bunted down the third-base line, and Kelleher scored on the overthrow of first base.
“Obviously, in that situation I had to get the bunt down,” Razo said. “My first attempt, I kind of missed it, so I focused up, got up on the plate and got it far enough away from the pitcher, and we got a good result from it.
“In that situation, they know the bunt’s coming. It’s tough to be in that situation, because you have to come through. I’m not sure what happened on their side, but I wanted to get it down and help us out. It ended up working out for us.”
Cascade staged a two-out rally in the top of the first inning to take an early lead. Nate McMullen singled up the middle, stole second and scored on Bryce Simon’s triple to straightaway center.
The Reds doubled their lead in the fourth with another two-out rally. Brock Simon doubled to right field and came around to score when Jackson Bennett laced a sharp single to right-center.
Cascade added on in the eighth. McMullen reached on an error to lead off the inning and moved up on Bryce Simon’s base hit. Austin Gehl followed with a solid single through the left side to drive in McMullen and stretch the lead to 3-0.