Wednesday, May 27, 2020
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Bell sparkles in IABA state tourney

WALFORD - Cody Bell has been pitching to Chico Lizarraga for about 15 years now.

First it was the Junior Cougars, then Kennedy High School, then Mount Mercy University, now the Fairfax Stars.

"Yup. A long, long time," Lizarraga said Sunday night.

It's been a winning combination every step of the way.

Bell tossed another strong game Sunday as Fairfax trimmed Red Top, 2-1, in a winners bracket game of the IABA state tournament at Walford.

Bell pitched a five-hitter with seven strikeouts for the Stars, who won the Iowa Valley League title this season and are 3-0 in the IABA tournament heading into the final round next weekend.

"Cody was brilliant tonight," said Lizarraga. "He had his stuff working. Fastball both sides of the plate, off-speed pitch, behind in the count. He had his 'A' game tonight."

Bell threw 97 pitches in the seven-inning contest, never once shaking off his catcher and long-time pal.

"I usually don't," he said. "It usually doesn't turn out too well for me if I do that."

Bell carried a 2-0 shutout into the seventh, but Red Top got a double from Billy Kass and a two-out, two-strike RBI single by Cal Clark to make it 2-1. Bell rared back and struck out Reid Bonner for the final out with his third strikeout of the frame.

"I felt good," said Bell. "My arm is fresh. I hadn't pitched in a few weeks.

"We've got a lot of pitching on this team, so I'm able to stay fresh, for the most part. When I'm pitching, I'm completely rested and healthy."

Lizarraga broke his left cheekbone and suffered nerve damage when he was hit by a pitch on the final day of the IVL season last Sunday, but he was back behind the plate less than a week later.

"As soon as they told me I wasn't having surgery, I knew I could catch. It will be OK," he said with a smile. "Catchers are tough."

Lizarraga wore a batting helmet with a special flap to protect the left side of his face, but the bigger danger was getting hit by a foul ball off the mask when he's catching.

"He took one yesterday," said Bell. "He said it didn't hurt too bad. He got lucky on that one.

"He battles," said Bell. "He's someone you want to go to war with."

Bell and Lizarraga are both 23. Bell has finished his schooling at Mount Mercy and is contemplating the next step in his career. "We'll see," he remarked.

Lizarraga is in graduate school at Mount Mercy, where he's a graduate assistant coach with the baseball program. He's also an assistant coach at Kennedy.

"Basically baseball, baseball, baseball," he said.

And much of it has been with his buddy Cody Bell.

"We have a tremendous bond," said Lizarraga. "That game, he just got the ball and threw it. He had really good tempo the whole game.

"He's one of those pitchers that gets better as the game goes on."

Fairfax grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. Cody Williams led off with an infield single and Bell singled up the middle on a hit-and-run to  put runners at the corners with one out.

Williams and Bell executed a double steal to make it 1-0, then Alex Hayden delivered a two-out RBI single to left-center to make it 2-0.

Bell made it stand up the entire game.

Cale Henke pitched a complete game for Red Top and did not allow a single run, but the defending state champions never got the big hit they needed to catch up. Bell struck out Nick Day with the bases loaded and two outs in the third inning, and he whiffed Ben Norman with two runners on base and two outs in the fifth.

Fairfax turned a pair of swift 4-6-3 double plays in the ballgame with second baseman Jacob Henry, shortstop Alex Hayden and first baseman Walker Breard on defense.

Fairfax unseated Red Top as the Iowa Valley League champions this year. Now the Stars are trying to unseat Red Top as the IABA state champions as well heading into Week 2.

"It's a good start, but our goals aren't finished yet," said Bell. "We want to win the tournament, obviously."

Red Top came back through the losers bracket to capture the state title last year. Now they'll have to do it again.

All of next weekend's games in the double-elimination tournament will be played at Norway. Red Top will face the Quad City 76ers in an elimination game at 2 p.m. Saturday, while Fairfax will meet Walford or the Muscatine Road runners at 4 p.m..

The Norway Bandits, who won both of their games Saturday, drew a bye on Sunday and will face Red Top or the Quad City 76ers at 6 p.m. next Saturday.

At Walford

Muscatine Road Runners 4, Watkins 2
Quad City 76ers 1, Muscatine Flames 0
Walford 2, Quad City Cardinals 1
Fairfax 2, Red Top 1

At Norway

12 p.m. - Muscatine Road Runners (2-1) vs Walford (2-1)
2 p.m. - Quad City 76ers (2-1) vs Red Top (2-1)
4 p.m. - Fairfax (3-0) vs Road Runners/Walford
6 p.m. - Norway (2-0) vs Red Top/Quad City 76ers


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