SIOUX CITY – A sizeable contingent from Remsen, Iowa, will make the trek to TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha Sunday for the opening round of the College World Series.
They will be there to support the son of one of their “own” who just happens to pitch for Texas Tech University.
In fact, junior Ty Harpenau, the son of St. Mary’s High School graduate Dale Harpenau, was the winning pitcher in the Red Raiders’ 7-2 victory over Duke that clinched their third CWS berth in the last five seasons.
Harpenau (7-2) allowed one run while working three innings in relief, striking out three and walking one. Texas Tech played defending national champion Florida in the first round of the CWS.
Among those who will be in the crowd Sunday is Dean Harpenau, the co-head coach at Remsen St. Mary’s and a second cousin to Ty’s father, Dale.
“I talk to Dale quite a bit and when Ty comes back here during the winter, my son Brady catches him for bullpen sessions,” Dean Harpenau said. “We went down (College World Series) a couple of years ago when Texas Tech played and we’re going to be there again. Hopefully we’ll get to see Ty pitch.”
Ty Harpenau, a 6-foot-2, 175-pound righthander, was picked 472nd in the 16th round by the Atlanta Braves in the Major League Draft earlier this month. He is still undecided whether he’ll sign or return to Lubbock for a final collegiate season.
That’s a long way from the end of last season, when Ty Harpenau came close to walking away from baseball.
He didn’t get much of an opportunity to pitch during his sophomore season, making only 10 appearances while posting a 6.53 earned run average in 20.2 innings. That came on the heels of a strong freshman season in which he made nine starts anad pitched 44.2 innings.
Ty told his father, who coached collegiate baseball for 27 seasons and was Ty’s high school coach at Southside High School in Fort Smith, Arkansas, that he was done.
But Dale, who won over 800 games in 27 seasons as a college coach, talked his son into giving it another shot. Ty enjoyed a renaissance, so to speak, through a strong 2017 summer season and carried that momentum into the 2018 campaign.
He pitched in two regional wins over Louisville and two more super-regional conquests of Duke. Harpenau is 7-2 with a 3.38 ERA in 53.1 innings pitched and has appeared in 25 games.
Dale Harpenau gleaned an immeasurable amount of coaching knowledge from the late Marv Thelen, his high school coach. Thelen, who died in 1987, guided St. Mary’s to consecutive Iowa Class 2A state titles in 1983, ’84 and ’85 and the Hawks also won three fall championships. Dale Harpenau was the catcher on the first of those in 1980.
The 1981 St. Mary’s graduate headed south to Westark College (now the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith) to continue his baseball career. Harpenau played two seasons there and two more at Arkansas Tech, where he landed the head coaching job at the age of 23.
Harpenau became Tech’s all-time winningest baseball coach with a 302-185-4 record in 11 seasons. He succeeded his college coach, Bill Crowder, at NCAA Division II Arkansas-Fort Smith and went on to win over 500 more games in 16 seasons there.
“Dale was looking for a place for Brady to play after he finished high school,” Dean Harpenau said. “So, he got some looks from teams down there.”
Brady Harpenau instead chose Briar Cliff University, where he just finished his sophomore season after leading St. Mary’s to a state championship as a senior.
Dale Harpenau left the college coaching ranks when Ty reached high school, becoming an assistant at Southside. The 2018 season was his third as head coach.
Dale and Dean Harpenau’s fathers were first cousins, making Dale a second cousin to Dean and Ty a third cousin.
Regardless, most anyone connected to the Harpenau family will be on hand in Omaha lending support to Ty, who is part of the latest wave carrying on a storied family legacy.