North Linn comes out on top in rematch against RSM
DES MOINES — Meeting for back-to-back seasons in the Class 1A state quarterfinals, it was North Linn avenging last year’s loss with a 6-3 victory over Remsen St. Mary’s on Saturday, July 21 at Principal Park.
RSM co-head coaches Jim Wesselmann and Dean Harpenau said with a familiar opponent, there wasn’t much the teams didn’t know about one another so the game came down to which team executed the best.
“Against any quality team, you have errors, it’s going to cost you,” Wesselmann said. “Those errors really mounted up and cost us some runs.”
Harpanau echoed his coaching partner as North Linn capitalized on mistakes to come away with the win.
“We actually hit the ball enough to win the game, we just had four errors,” he said. “It’s hard to get it done down here with four errors.”
The Hawks had a chance to push across an early run as Derrick Schorg led off the game with a single. He subsequently stole second base and advanced to third on a groundout from Blaine Harpenau. Carter Kuchel also reached base in the inning after being hit by a pitch, but both runners were left stranded on a pair of groundouts, the first going right back to the pitcher.
Blaine Harpenau had a limited number of pitches to work with. As a freshman, he can only throw 150 pitches in a week and had already thrown 92 of those in the substate final against Gehlen Catholic.
“I knew coming into today I didn’t have as many pitches left as I wanted to, but I just wanted to throw strikes and get as far as I could,” Harpenau said. “I wanted to get around four or five innings done.”
He made the most of his start on the mound, stranding a leadoff walk at third base in the first inning and sending the Lynx down in order the following frame. Harpenau ran into a bit of trouble once the top of the order came back around with two outs in the third.
Ryan Miller reached on a single and stole his 58th base of the season, leading to an intentional walk of the .515 hitting Jake Hilmer. The inning should have ended after that, but an error at first base allowed Sean Boardman to reach and Miller to score.
The Hawks were finally able to get something going against starter Miller as it was the bottom of the order setting the table nicely for the leadoff guys in the fifth with a two-out rally.
Spencer Schorg singled and moved to second on a wild pitch. Marcus Konopasek reached on a single of his own to turn the lineup card over. Derrick Schorg drove in the first run with a base hit and Harpenau gave the Hawks the lead with an RBI hit which led to the Lynx replacing Miller on the mound with Hilmer to get out of the inning.
“I knew we had the momentum scoring that one run so I wanted to make sure I didn’t strike out,” Harpenau said about going into his at-bat in the fifth. “I just wanted to put the ball in play and give us a chance to put another run across.”
RSM built a lead for Harpenau to be in line for the win, but unfortunately he didn’t get a chance to throw with the lead.
“He got us through four complete which we were very happy with,” Wesselmann said. “He did a nice job those four innings.”
The Hawks sent David Grady to the hill and started off by getting his first batter to strike out looking, but that was the only out he ended up getting. A single to the nine-batter started off the rally for North Linn as the team’s big bats at the top of the order came next and followed with two more singles to load the bases.
“He got the first out, a great job there, and then we bobbled the ball a couple times,” Coach Harpenau said. “We didn’t make two plays, not clean, loaded the bases. That stuff’s going to happen but you’ve got to make plays down at the state tournament or other teams are going to capitalize on your mistakes.”
Boardman, who entered the game with a team-best 55 RBI, added three more to his season total with one swing, sending a triple to the outfield to clear the bases and give the Lynx the lead back.
Derrick Schorg was then handed the ball to get out of the inning and gave up a single to bring home Boardman. An error and another single led to another run before Schorg was able to catch a pop up on a squeeze attempt and double off the runner at third to end the bleeding.
RSM kept fighting as Kuchel led off the sixth with a triple to the right field wall.
“I just wish there were some guys on base,” Kuchel said. “I wish I wasn’t the leadoff that inning. I wish I would have gotten up the inning before with the bases loaded and I think it would have been a different game.”
Brett Galles joined Kuchel on base after being hit by a pitch to put two runners on with nobody out. Skyler Waldschmitt hit a sacrifice fly to center field to bring home Kuchel, but a pair of strikeouts ended the inning with no further scoring by the Hawks.
RSM went down in order in the top of the seventh to bow out of state in the quarterfinal round for the first time since the 2013 season and only the second time in their last nine trips.
North Linn (41-3) advances to meet Tri-Rivers Conference rival Lisbon (35-0) in the 1A state semifinals on Thursday, July 26. Two of the team’s three losses came in one-run games against Lisbon this season.
Remsen St. Mary’s ends the season at 27-4 after making the state tournament for the third straight year. The team graduates a senior class which was successful in leading the school to state tournament events in multiple sports.
“Three straight years being in Des Moines and one championship,” Wesselmann said. “The basketball success, the football success, the track, the golf, the cross country, everything. They’ve left a pretty good legacy for their high school career.”
Kuchel, a key piece of several of those state teams, reflected on his time spent on those different teams.
“I’m gonna miss this,” Kuchel said. “I’m gonna miss all these guys, the family group that we have. You just can’t beat it. To go to state in every single sport our school offers. I’m not going to forget it, ever.”
Score by Innings R H E
RSM 000 021 0 - 3 6 4
North Linn 001 050 X - 6 7 2
RSM: 2B- None; 3B- Kuchel; HR- None; RBI- D. Schorg, Harpenau, Waldschmitt; Pitching: Blaine Harpenau- 4 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 Ks; David Grady (L)- 1/3 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 1 K; Derrick Schorg- 1 2/3 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K.
North Linn: 2B- None; 3B- Boardman; HR- None; RBI- Boardman 3, Pflughaupt 1; Pitching: Ryan Miller- 4 2/3 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 Ks; Jake Hilmer (W)- 2 1/3 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 Ks.