The result was in doubt for Le Mars (28-6) for the first half of Monday's district final against Spencer (16-14).
"Spencer gave us everything we wanted tonight," said Le Mars head coach Trent Eckstaine said. "(Spencer coach) Brian (Dirkx) got his kids ready."
Junior Hunter Rowe hit a one-out single before stealing second and third base during the at-bat of junior catcher Kendall Candor. Candor flied out to the second baseman and senior Chris Eckstaine struck out to leave Rowe on third.
Spencer junior Matt Klemme gave the Tigers the start they wanted with a single past Le Mars sophomore third baseman Colan Borchers. Junior pitcher Weston Glienke was thrown out at first on a bunt. Junior Tayler Tatman flied out for the second out and Klemme tagged up to third.
Junior Parker Rolfes plunked junior Austin Allen before senior Blake Seier drove in Klemme on an error. Freshman Chase Habben drove in Allen and Seier to put Spencer ahead 3-0. Rolfes struck out junior Jordan Plueger to end the inning.
The score remained 3-0 until several defensive miscues by Le Mars allowed Spencer to add two more runs in the third inning.
Tatman then singled to center field and Allen drove in Glienke with a hit down the third base line. Eckstaine then replaced Rolfes on the mound.
"I thought Parker did all right," Eckstaine said. "They got a couple good-enough base hits to kind of get it across."
After allowing a pair of singled to Seier and Habben, Eckstaine struck out the next two batters and forced junior Zevin Carlson into a ground-out.
The Bulldogs' bats woke up once they were down 5-0.
Rowe led off the fourth inning with a single. Candor followed with a single to center field and Rowe hustled to third base. Eckstaine hit a high fly ball near the opposing dugout that was caught and Rowe tagged from third to put Le Mars on the board.
Junior first baseman Andy Heffner was hit by a pitch during his at-bat, but the umpire disallowed the hit-by-pitch based on his judgment of Heffner's movement on the pitch. Heffner then singled to right field.
Rolfes hit a hard ground ball that was misplayed by the shortstop. The ball bounced to the second baseman on second base. The second baseman grabbed the ball as Heffner slid into second and the field umpire called Heffner out on a controversial call.
Junior right fielder Conner Delfs earned a walk to load the bases for freshman designated hitter Dayton Rand. Rand connected for a single through the hole on the right side of the field to score courtesy runner Mitch Timp and Rolfes. Delfs scored the final run of the inning on a passed ball.
"We needed something like that -- Dayton Rand comes up with that big two-out base-hit, scores two runs there. That's nice. it was people all the way through the order that chipped in."
Eckstaine sat the Tigers down in order in the bottom of the fourth inning as the Bulldogs trailed just 5-4.
Junior center Jacob Lamoreux and Rowe began the fifth inning with back-to-back singles. Candor hit a gapper to left-center field to score Lamoreux, but Rowe was thrown out at home plate. Candor reached third-base on heads-up baserunning.
Timp ran for Candor again and scored on a passed ball to put Le Mars ahead for good 6-5.
Eckstaine struck out the first two batters of the Tigers' half of the inning. An error allowed Habben to reach base. He was left on base when Plueger grounded out to second base.
The Bulldogs went three up, three down in the sixth inning. Eckstaine beaned sophomore Tatman Chance at the start of the bottom of the sixth. Carlson bunted down the third base line to move Chance to second. Eckstaine fielded the bunt and alertly tagged Carlson out running towards first base.
Chance went from second to third base on a ball that got away from Candor. Candor's throw beat Chance to the base, but the field umpire called Chance safe. The umpire said the tag was high up on Chance's leg.
Klemme flied out to Delfs in right field and Chance was unable to tag from third. Eckstaine struck out Glienke to end the inning.
A walk to Borchers prompted a pitching change by Spencer. Tatman replaced Glienke on the mound. Lamoreux was thrown out on a close play at first after he laid down a short bunt towards third base.
Tatman hit a chopper to third base and Borchers threw to first base for the first out. Eckstaine finished the game with back-to-back strikeouts of Allen and Seier.
Eckstaine allowed two hits in five innings of relief for the win. The senior struck out eight batters and walked none. Rolfes finished with two innings pitched and four earned runs. Rolfes struck out three and also did not have a walk. Both pitchers hit one batter.
Rowe finished 3-for-4 at the plate with one run scored. Candor was 2-for-3 with a walk and an RBI. Timp scored twice running for Candor.
Le Mars finished with eight hits, as did Spencer.
The Bulldogs have had to gut out several close games this season after falling behind.
"Then we're usually putting up six runs up somewhere along the line," Eckstaine said about the team's slow starts. "We put a big crooked number up. Hopefully we don't do that too much anymore. I'll take the crooked number, but let's get maybe two or three in the first couple innings and not have to put up a crooked one."
The Bulldogs move on to substate to face the fourth-ranked Bishop Heelan Catholic Crusaders (34-9) Wednesday at 7 p.m. The game will be played at Lewis and Clark Park in Sioux City.
"Everybody is on staff," Eckstaine said. "We'll throw whatever we need to get a 'W.' I'm sure whoever we're going to be playing are going to do the same thing. We're going to see who can gut it out and who gets hot."
Rolfes started against Heelan on June 15 in a tournament game in Elk Point, S.D. in the two teams' only meeting this season. Heelan hit three home runs and won 12-6.
"If we come out and perform and our guys get some good at-bats like they need to, we're going to be in our ball games regardless of who we play," Eckstaine said. "I don't get as much worried about who we're facing. It's, 'Are we going to perform and play ball like we should?'"