RSM suffers another heartbreak at the hands of Alburnett

Thursday, August 8, 2019
The RSM baseball team raises their state semifinalist trophy at the conclusion of their game against Alburnett.
(Sentinel Photos By Allen Hamil)

DES MOINES — Just months after a buzzer-beater sent Alburnett past Remsen St. Mary’s at the Class 1A state basketball tournament, the Hawks dropped Thursday’s (August 1) Class 1A state semifinal by baseball’s equivalent, a walk-off in the bottom of the seventh in what was a 4-3 final score.

“It definitely stings a lot,” Spencer Schorg said. “It just sucks that we couldn’t get it done.”

Sophomore Blaine Harpenau said it was hard to put into words the feeling of the loss.

“It’s hard to describe the feeling,” he said. “It’s just terrible. We battled and we were close but in the end, they got the job done and we didn’t, but I’m just proud of the team. We had a great season.”

With the bases loaded and one out, RSM relief pitcher Skyler Waldschmitt was up 0-1 on the count to Shane Neighbor. His pitch was a breaking ball which came in on the right-handed hitter but Neighbor was able to square up with the bunt as Austin Huber came running down the line from third. Waldschmitt and third baseman Spencer Schorg collided and fell to the ground on the dribbler hit just up the third-base line, but it wouldn’t have mattered if the collision happened or not as Huber was already home by the time the ball was picked up.

Coach Harpenau said the thought of Alburnett executing a squeeze had crossed his mind.

“We probably should have pitched out a little bit,” he said. “Some of that’s our inexperience in those situations. Usually when he sees the guy, we’re supposed to throw away or when there’s one strike, lift and cut at third, but it was an intense moment and you’ve got to give them credit, they executed. It was a tough pitch and they got the job done.”

Waldschmitt inherited the game-winning baserunner as Harpenau walked Huber to start the inning as he met his pitch maximum. With the run charged to Harpenau, his perfect record was dashed as he finishes the season with a 15-1 mark. Waldschmitt came on and gave up a single to center field by Reed Stallman and then an infield single to Keaton Parker to load the bases. Waldschmitt was able to strike out Luke Smith as the Hawks looked to get out of the mess and onto extra innings, but it didn’t work out as Neighbor, who went 0-for-3 prior to the walk-off hit, came through for the Pirates.

The game started off in similar fashion to RSM’s quarterfinal win over Martensdale-St. Marys in that it was a duel between the two starting pitchers before the Hawks broke through for the first runs of the game in the fifth inning. Harpenau wasn’t quite as sharp as his quarterfinal appearance where he threw a no-hitter through six innings, but he was able to work through the first four innings without giving up a run.

Coach Harpenau said the fatigue of a long season may have been a factor as Blaine threw in every postseason game except for the opening district contest.

“It’s a long year, it’s his 16th game,” he said. “He did a great job for us. We’ll develop more pitching. We’re young and some of these guys will make some big strides and then obviously he can be a little more fresh.”

Harpenau sent the Pirates down in order in the first before working around leadoff baserunners in each of the next three innings. He hit his counterpart on the mound, Keaton Parker, to lead off the second, but his pinch runner was caught stealing at second for the second assist on a steal attempt for catcher Waldschmitt at state this season. The Pirates got the next batter on via walk before leaving him stranded on base. Back-to-back singles started off the third for the Pirates before Harpenau was able to leave two runners stranded. In the fourth, Waldschmitt made another smart defensive play as he fielded a sacrifice bunt attempt and threw down to third to get the lead runner for the first out of the inning before the Pirates flew out on the next two batters with several good defensive plays by the outfield also keeping the Pirates at bay in the early innings.

“Our fielders were spectacular today again,” Blaine Harpenau said. “They made some amazing plays and that helps knowing that I can rely on them to make plays for me.”

RSM had an opportunity to put some runs across earlier than the fifth as the team got the first two runners on in the third as Jeremy Koenck got hit by a pitch and Xavier Galles reached on a single. Spencer Schorg moved them up a base on a sac bunt. Koenck then got caught in a rundown between third and home in the next at-bat as Harpenau hit one to the third baseman and he was eventually tagged out sliding back into third base. The out was the second of the inning but the Hawks still had another opportunity as Skyler Waldschmitt reached on a walk to fill the bases. The threat was ended as Parker got Brayden Ricke to fly out to the left fielder.

The same situation presented itself to the Hawks in the fifth and this time they weren’t going to come away empty-handed.

“We got runners on base and that’s what we needed,” Blaine Harpenau said. “After we got runners we got key hits in that inning and pushed through a few runs. After you see a guy so much you know it helps. You know what he’s throwing, how hard he’s throwing and how much his ball moves so we knew we were going to get on the pitcher eventually and we did in the fifth.”

Koenck was plunked for the second time in the game and a team-high 15th time this season to start off the frame. Galles pushed the runner up with a sacrifice before the team came away with three consecutive run-scoring hits. Spencer Schorg broke the scoreless game with an RBI base hit up the middle and advanced to second on the throw.

“I told Jeremy and X to do their job, get on base for me and I’ll hit them home,” Schorg said. “I just came into the mindset that I believed that I could get the job done and I got a base knock and got on the board first. I was really confident at that point because we had Blaine on the mound and he’s a great pitcher. I thought we were going to get them.”

Harpenau copied his teammate with another base hit up the middle to score the second run. Courtesy runner for the pitcher, Damen Brownmiller, went from first to third on an errant pickoff attempt which ended up at the bullpen in right field. Skyler Waldschmitt brought him home as he sent his single between the first and second basemen who were playing in.

Alburnett had a quick answer in the bottom of the inning with Reed Stallman driving in a pair on his team-leading fourth triple of the season on a hit to the right field fence. Parker tied the game with an RBI single which made its way into left field.

The Hawks went down in order in the sixth, but had an opportunity in the seventh to pull back in front. Galles reached on the second of his two hits to lead off the inning and he was sacrificed to second by Spencer Schorg. Harpenau connected on a quickly dropping ball to the outfield, but Huber made a sliding grab and was able to catch Galles off the base at second for an inning-ending double play.

Alburnett (34-5) advances to the Class 1A state championship game on Saturday, August 3, in just their second-ever appearance at state. They will play perennial power Mason City Newman Catholic (37-3) who is looking for their seventh overall title and third consecutive as they followed up a close 8-7 win in the quarterfinals against Pekin with a 10-0 blowout in five innings over Don Bosco in the earlier semifinal game.

Remsen St. Mary’s concludes their season with a 27-8 record. With no graduating players from this year’s squad, the Hawks will look to extend their school-record state tournament appearance streak out to five consecutive years once they hit the diamond next summer.

“I think a lot of people thought that because we lost seven seniors we weren’t going to be any good, but we believed in ourselves,” Schorg said. “We were more looking forward to just this season and keep continuing to grow but now that this season’s over, I think we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with next year.”

Score by Innings R H E

RSM 000 030 0 - 3 6 0

Alb. 000 030 1 - 4 10 1

RSM: Walks- 1; 2B- None; 3B- None; HR- None; RBI- S. Schorg, Harpenau, S. Waldschmitt; Pitching: Blaine Harpenau (L)- 6 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 3 Ks; Skyler Waldschmitt- 1/3 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.

Alburnett: Walks- 4; 2B- None; 3B- R. Stallman; HR- None; RBI- R. Stallman 2, Parker 1, Neighbor 1; Pitching: Keaton Parker (W)- 7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 Ks.