RSM soars to State Tournament for 3rd straight year
By Allen Hamil, Sports Editor Le Mars Daily Sentinel LE MARS — Not since the 1983-85 seasons, all state championship years for Remsen St. Mary’s, have the Hawks strung together as many consecutive state tournament appearances. The team matches that mark for consecutive summer state appearances by earning a 7-3 victory over rival Gehlen Catholic in the substate final held at the Bulldog Complex on Tuesday, July 17. It is the school’s 11th overall summer state tourney qualification. RSM co-head coach Dean Harpenau was a member of the last group that earned three straight state trips and says it’s a difficult feat to accomplish. “You don’t know how hard it is,” Harpenau said. “People don’t realize how hard it is to go back-to-back let alone three times. It’s a hard thing to do. And with both of my sons playing, it’s a neat thing for me.” The Hawks broke through for their first run as Carter Kuchel scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Skyler Waldschmitt. Brody Ricke later doubled in the inning and scored on a single from Spencer Schorg. Gehlen had an opportunity to answer in the top of the third as Cole Linden singled up the middle while Lucas McCarty and Cole Wiltgen loaded the bases with infield hits. Elijah Freking popped out on an infield fly and Isaac Herbst was struck out by Blaine Harpenau to end the inning. Gehlen Head Coach Greer Milledge said his team wasn’t able to come away with a timely hit. “We had bases loaded one time early in the game and we just couldn’t get anybody home,” Milledge said. “If we had that clutch hit like they did there in the fifth, it might be a different game, I don’t know, but we didn’t stop fighting. The Jays did work back into a 2-2 tie in the fourth as Xavier Roberts and Jeff Augustine each had RBI hits in the inning against Harpenau who reached his pitch limit at the conclusion of the frame. Harpenau earned the win for himself as he singled in the go-ahead run in the fifth inning before being replaced by David Grady on the mound for the final two innings. Mitchell Schiltz was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Budden got his final batter, Kuchel, to strike out before he was replaced by Lucas McCarty. It appeared he hit the first batter he faced, but the umpire ruled Brett Galles did not make an attempt to avoid the pitch and it was called a ball. Galles made it sting for the Jays more than getting hit by the ball did as he smashed a double to the left field corner to score a pair of runs. “The ump did me a little favor by not letting me go on the hit-by-pitch,” Galles said. “The pitcher gave me two inside pitches. I didn’t swing at the first one, but the second one was my pitch so I took a swing at it and it felt good off the bat and it picked us up two more runs.” Waldschmitt tacked on the final run of the four-run inning with a sacrifice fly to center field. The Hawks got their final run in the next inning as Derrick Schorg reached base and advanced all the way from first to home on three pitches to the backstop. Grady gave up a run in the seventh on an RBI ground out to Cole Wiltgen, but closed out the game with two runners on as Budden flew out to Kuchel in center field to end the game. Grady said making it to state has now become expected and now it’s his goal to make the mound at Principal Park. “It’s a good feeling of course,” Grady said. “History’s been made as it hasn’t been done since the 80s. It’s been expected, but we’re held to a high standard so it feels awesome to go again.” The Jays, entering the game as the long-shot with a losing record and three previous losses to the Hawks, still fought to the very end as their wild postseason run came to an end with a final record of 12-16. “Definitely proud of these guys, they did not give up one bit,” Milledge said. “Started off 1-9 this year and they could have given up but they didn’t. They kept fighting all the way through. We saw that in the last inning. We had runners on first and second with two outs and we’re still trying to hit the ball, still trying to win the game.” Gehlen saved their best baseball for the end of the season with a season-best five game winning streak entering the substate game and had outscored their opponents 73-31 in that span. Milledge gives a lot of credit to his senior class, one that will be missed next season. “They really stepped up here in the last couple weeks and got us on a roll, got us playing really well,” Milledge said. “Losing 10 seniors is going to hurt. It’s going to hurt not having those guys next year. We’re losing eight starters.” The Hawks won the 2016 state title in the first of their current string of state appearances and ended in the semifinals last year. The team won’t have an easy road to a state title as seven of the eight teams in the 1A field were ranked in the final IHSBCA rankings. RSM (27-3) was fourth in those final rankings and No. 1 Mason City Newman Catholic, No. 2 Lisbon and No. 3 North Linn all made the tournament field. Pairings will be announced on Wednesday after a seeding meeting amongst the state tournament qualifying coaches. “It could be one of the best fields in 1A for a long time,” Harpenau said. “It’s a really stacked field, but we’re happy to be there.” RSM’s state quarterfinal game will be Saturday, July 21 at Principal Park in Des Moines. Gehlen 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 3 RSM 0 2 0 0 4 1 X 7 Gehlen: Hits- 9; Walks- 1; 2B- Von Arb; 3B- None; HR- None; RBI- Augustine, Wiltgen, Roberts; Pitching: Colin Budden (L)- 4 1/3 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 2 BB 7 Ks; Lucas McCarty- 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K; Isaac Herbst- 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 Ks. RSM: Hits- 7; Walks- 3; 2B- Galles, Ricke; 3B- None; HR- None; RBI- Galles 2, Waldschmitt 2, Harpenau 1, S. Schorg 1; Pitching: Blaine Harpenau (W)- 5 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 8 Ks; David Grady- 2 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K.