(Council Bluffs) -- A game coined by Clarinda Coach Rod Eberly as their best performance of the year came at an impeccable time and sent the Cardinals to state for the first time since 2005 with an 8-3 win over Panorama in a Class 2A Substate 8 Final on KMA-FM 99.1 Tuesday night.
"An unbelievable performance by our guys tonight against a good Panorama team," Eberly said. "We played our best game of the year."
"It means a lot," said senior pitcher Michael Shull. "The only thing I've ever wanted to do is to put up a banner. To get one feels great."
The Cardinals' banner performance came because of stellar pitching from Shull, a stingy defense, a monster third inning, and clutch showings from the bottom of their batting order.
"When it comes tournament baseball time, you have to do your best to weather storms," Eberly said. "When you do that, you give yourself a chance to win games."
"It was an awesome night," junior catcher Logan Green said. "We put together a helluva game."
The start wasn't ideal, though, as Panorama raced to a 2-0 lead after two innings.
However, the tide turned for the Cardinals in the third when Jon McCall opened the frame with a single, and Isaac Jones moved McCall on a fielder's choice. Tadyn Brown plated McCall on an RBI to cut the deficit to 2-1 with two runners on, and Cooper Neal followed with a single to load the bases, bringing Green to the plate.
The junior delivered on ahit to rightfield that couldn't be fielded by Panorama outfielder Austin Block, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead.
"I saw the ball well," Green said. "I just put it in play. It was middle-away, so I just drove it where it needed to be."
"That was the momentum right there," Eberly said. "It turned the game. After that, we carried the momentum."
Green's bases-clearing, momentum-shifting, three-RBI hit was his first of three on the night.
Panorama trimmed the deficit to 4-3 in the top of the fourth, but that was short-lived, as Clarinda countered with two runs, one of which came on a single from Jones -- their No. 9 hitter -- to make the score 6-3.
In the fifth inning, Cole Baumgart and Jarod McNeese joined the fun with RBI hits to give the Cardinals a five-run cushion, which proved to be enough, as sophomore Wyatt Schmitt relieved Shull on the mound and worked the final six outs. The game ended with back-to-back looking strikeouts and securing Clarinda's fourth trip to state in program history.
"This is something we've been working for all season," Schmitt said. "We didn't make errors, played good defense and threw strikes."
The No. 5 through 9 hitters totaled eight hits for Clarinda on Tuesday night.
"It's always somebody new," Coach Eberly said. "In tournament baseball, you have to plan on somebody stepping up. The bottom half of the order was great. We generated some runs that we hadn't been doing."
Defensively, Shull provided the Cardinals' with five innings of five-hit baseball while striking out six.
"He didn't have his best stuff, but he competed hard and gave us five good innings," Eberly said.
"My fastball was working alright," Shull said. "I was just trying to pound the zone and let my defense work."
The defense put in plenty of work, led by the human vacuum that was shortstop Cole Baumgart, who played a hand in a quartet of timely putouts.
"All of our infielders are really good," Baumgart said. "We don't make a lot of errors. When we do, we come back."
"Get outs," Coach Eberly said about their approach. "When you make special plays like Cole did tonight, it gives you confidence as a pitcher."
Since their last state tournament appearance in 2005, Clarinda (18-11) was on the doorstep of a return in 2008, 2012 and 2016, only to come one game shy.
"It's great to get back," Eberly said. "The guys deserve it. They've worked their butts off."
The Cardinals will learn their Class 2A State Tournament opponent on Wednesday following the coaches' seeding meeting. Regardless of who they face in Carroll, they hope to make the most of the opportunity.
"We are going to make a run as far as we can," Schmitt said.
"With pitching and defense, you can do a lot of things," Eberly said. "If we continue to pitch and play defense, we will have a chance to compete at state."
Panorama closes their season at 23-5.
Complete video interviews with Schmitt, Shull, Green, Baumgart and Coach Eberly, and a photo gallery from JC Moore Photography, can be viewed below.