RSM gets past Martensdale-St. Marys in 1A quarterfinals
DES MOINES — A strong performance from Blaine Harpenau on the mound, a solid defense behind him and one string of players reaching base was enough for Remsen St. Mary’s to get past the better-seeded Martensdale-St. Marys in a Class 1A quarterfinal held at Principal Park on Saturday, July 27. The Hawks were the only lower-seeded team to win their quarterfinal game over the weekend as they came out on top of a 4-2 final score.
RSM’s ace pitched a perfect game against Unity Christian earlier this season and had a couple other no-hitters, but those performances came against teams not nearly the caliber of Martensdale-St. Marys, who finished ranked No. 2 in the Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association rankings and who took the third seed in the 1A tournament. For six innings, Harpenau dominated the Blue Devils, not allowing a single hit.
“Maybe not the best, but one of the best. I thought up at Unity when he threw the perfect game, I thought he was at his best,” RSM co-Head Coach Dean Harpenau said. “He looked like he was throwing pretty hard today, he looked good. Maybe not as sharp as Unity because that was a perfect game and it’s hard to get better than that. For six innings, he had them no-hit. At the end there I think maybe he was getting a little tired with three days rest. He pounded the strike zone and changed speeds well with the curveball.”
One of the few signs of life for Martensdale-St. Marys in the first six innings came in the opening frame as Jack Franey drew a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. He was subsequently thrown out trying to steal third to end the inning as catcher Skyler Waldschmitt threw down to Carter Schorg at third base who applied the tag as Franey came off the base, one of several nice defensive plays by the Hawks.
“My fielders behind me, they were spectacular,” Blaine Harpenau said. “Carter’s catch over the dugout and then Levi’s catch in right center, that was amazing. They just did a spectacular job out there.”
Franey reached again in the fourth on an error and Troy Holt drew a walk in the sixth, but that was all the Blue Devils were able to get against Harpenau through the first six frames.
With Harpenau’s pitch count approaching the 100 mark on a hot afternoon, the Blue Devils finally started to crack the code in their final turn at plate trailing 4-0. Carson Elbert drew a leadoff walk and the no-hit bid came to an end as Trey Baker hit his team-leading 10th double of the season down the right-field line to put runners on second and third.
While a disappointment to lose the no-hitter, Harpenau was more concerned with getting his team to Thursday’s (August 1) semifinal round.
“All I was worried about was getting the win,” he said. “I didn’t care about the no-hitter or anything. The last inning I just left a couple breaking balls up and they took advantage of it.”
Martensdale-St. Marys scored their first run of the game as Kasey Carter singled and then got their second run as Esa Johanson hit a foul pop which was caught by Jaxon Bunkers near the tarp in right field. It was deep enough to allow the runners to tag up.
Harpenau was able to get the final two outs with a few pitches to spare, ending with 107 for the day. He got Cael Cassady to pop out to Spencer Schorg at shortstop and then capped off the win by getting Brooks Trom to strike out looking for Harpenau’s sixth strikeout of the game.
While the final inning didn’t exactly go as planned, Harpenau said he was pleased with his performance after coming off his shortest start by innings in a game not decided by a run-rule margin.
“It felt good to get back to throwing 100-some pitches because I haven’t done that in awhile,” Harpenau said. “I knew based off last game that I had to pound the zone way better than I did last game. Last game I was a little wild but this game I did a great job of hitting the zone.”
Harpenau moves to 15-0 this summer as he reaches 160 strikeouts for the season, the first player to hit that mark since Maple Valley/Anthon-Oto’s Korey Kuhlman in the 2015 season.
Blue Devils starter Isaac Gavin matched his counterpart through the first four innings before he gave up four runs in the fifth before he was replaced by Carson Elbert in the frame without getting anyone out.
While most teams rely on production from the top and middle of their order, the Hawks once again got the rally started from the bottom half of the order.
Bunkers led off the inning with a double and Brady Homan reached on a single as the ball was popped up in the vicinity of the shortstop who was unable to make a play on it. Levi Waldschmitt got hit by a pitch to load the bases and Jeremy Koenck was plunked the next at-bat to score the first run of the game and led to Blue Devils Head Coach Jon Fitzpatrick pulling his starter from the game.
Xavier Galles stepped in against Elbert and came through with a 2 RBI single to make it 3-0. The No. 9 hitter, who led the team with 3 RBI in the substate final, said he was prepared for the situation.
“Confidence is key,” Galles said. “Just know that you’ve done your practice and you prepare for the moment. If you know you can do it and have that confidence you can do it, a lot of times you’re going to pull through. It’s a good feeling, but it’s everybody else has to get on base to give me that situation so it helps that we’re getting runners on base to put me in situations like that.”
Harpenau took the third hit-by-pitch of the inning to reach first and reload the bases before the team’s final run came home on a balk. The Hawks had a chance for more with the middle of their lineup, but Skyler Waldschmitt popped out to second and Brayden Ricke flew out to center for the final outs of the inning. Once again, Coach Harpenau said the bottom of the order came up big for the team.
“Our No. 9 guy again, he’s been our guy,” he said. “He had two hits again today. I can’t praise him enough. That’s why he’s there. Our bottom of our lineup came through again and got us a four run lead and that was enough to hold on.”
Aside from the four-run fifth, RSM wasn’t able to get much going offensively. Spencer Schorg led off the game by reaching on an error, but was left stranded at second. He was later caught stealing second after reaching via walk in the third. The Hawks got one hit in the second as Homan reached with one of his two hits before an inning-ending double play. RSM went down in order in all of the other innings except for the seventh when Galles picked up his second hit of the day and Harpenau reached base on a hit. Both runners were left on base that inning.
Martensdale-St. Marys concludes their season with a 34-7 record. It is their earliest exit from the state tournament since the 2014 season when they lost on a walk-off to Don Bosco in the quarterfinals. The Blue Devils had won their state quarterfinal game in each of their last three appearances.
Remsen St. Mary’s improves to 27-7 as they will face second-seeded Alburnett in Thursday’s (August 1) semifinals with a 1:30 p.m. scheduled first pitch. Alburnett won their quarterfinal game 13-4 over South Winneshiek.
RSM and Alburnett also met in the Class 1A semifinals for basketball this past winter with the Pirates winning that game 39-37 on a buzzer-beater, something that will provide a bit of extra motivation for the Hawks heading into the game.
“We’re pumped up for that game,” Blaine Harpenau said. “We saw they were in it too and we were like we’ve just got to win and if they win we meet up in the semifinals again, just a different sport. They’re a great team and we’re going to have to come out and execute again, play our game, and hopefully that will get the job done.”
Score by Innings R H E
RSM 000 040 0 - 4 6 1
M-SM 000 000 2 - 2 2 1
RSM: Walks- 1; 2B- Bunkers; 3B- None; HR- None; RBI- Galles 2, Koenck 1; Pitching: Blaine Harpenau (W)- 7 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 Ks.
M-SM: Walks- 3; 2B- Baker; 3B- None; HR- None; RBI- Carter, Johanson; Pitching: Isaac Gavin (L)- 4 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 Ks; Carson Elbert- 3 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.