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'He's the real deal:' Blaine Harpenau named Journal's Baseball Player of the Year

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CARROLL, Iowa — Blaine Harpenau could do it all.

Whether on the baseball diamond, the football field, or the basketball court, there was no athletic pursuit at which Harpenau did not excel. But baseball seemed to be where he shined the brightest.

In his junior year at Remsen St. Mary's, Harpenau had an otherworldly year on the mound for the Hawks, pitching his way to an 8-0 record, a 0.12 ERA, a 0.64 WHIP, and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 108/14.

Harpenau followed that season up with a spectacular senior year.

Along with his 0.62 ERA, 0.62 WHIP, 13-0 record, and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 129/18, Harpenau raised his batting average at the plate by nearly 140 points.

The Hawks’ star senior hit .479 in 2021, with a .585 on-base percentage, a slugging mark of .670, 33 RBI, and 28 runs scored.

For his dominance on the diamond, Harpenau has been selected as the Journal’s Baseball Player of the Year.

“I think there was some added pressure this year with one of our All-Staters, Jaxon Bunkers, being out,” Remsen St. Mary’s coach Dean Harpenau said. “I think Blaine kind of shouldered that, and leadership-wise, he really got out of the gates early for us, and really hit the ball well.”

Harpenau was a five-year starter for the Hawks, first stepping into a role as one of Remsen's top starting pitchers n eighth grade. That first season, all the way back in 2017, he finished with a 1.18 ERA in 47 1/3 innings pitched, and earned a win in the state quarterfinals.

In his five years in the starting rotation, Harpenau never finished with an ERA higher than that mark of 1.18.

Harpenau played at the state tournament in all five of his seasons with Remsen St. Mary’s, but the Hawks couldn’t quite accomplish their ultimate goal of winning the state title.

The Hawks’ most recent baseball championship came in 2016.

“We had a great year," Blaine Harpenau said. “Obviously we wanted to get a state championship. We didn’t get it, but I’m still grateful for the year we had. Anytime you make it down to the state tournament is a pretty good year. I’m happy with that, happy with all the memories I had, and all the time I got to spend with my guys this year.”

Not one to limit his own abilities, Harpenau proved to be a standout athlete in every sport he tried in his time at St. Mary’s.

In football, he threw for 1,061 yards and 14 touchdowns as the Hawks’ quarterback his senior year, while also rushing for 949 yards on the ground and 16 rushing scores as R-SM clinched the eight-player state championship.

In basketball, Harpenau scored 226 points on the season and finished with a team-high 112 rebounds.

Not only was Dean Harpenau a coach to Blaine, he is also his father. The one factor that Blaine stood out was his fearlessness.

“You can tell the kids that have that ‘it’ factor,” Dean Harpenau said. “We could tell that early, that’s why we threw him as an eighth grader in the first round against North Linn, who was ranked No. 1 at the time. Because we could tell there was no fear. When you’re not afraid to fail, that is the kind of people you look for.

“In life, there is going to be ups and downs, and you’ve got to take some chances once in a while,” the Hawks coach said. “I think that is where a great leader, that is where they reside in.”

After clubbing three hits, and striking out nine batters while pitching 4 2/3 no-hit innings in the Hawks' 14-0 win over Lansing-New Albin Kee in the state quarterfinals, Harpenau was named the Class 1A All-State Team Captain.

Now that his high school days are over, Harpenau will continue his baseball career at Kirkwood Community College, home to one of the top junior college programs in the country.

After seeing Blaine accomplish so much over the past five years, Coach Harpenau sees big things ahead for him at the college level. He has no doubt that Blaine is ready. 

“I’m sure there are some people out there that would think, “Oh, he plays for a small school,” Coach Harpenau said. “But as some of the 3A schools learned around here, he is the real deal. He’s not someone who is going to crumble in tough situations. I’ll be curious to see what they do with him when he plays just one sport, and does specialize.”

His accomplishments have earned Harpenau a spot in the school trophy case, and have made it a certainty that his name will be talked about at Remsen St. Mary's for a long time. 

But along with his stats, his All-State accolades, and his five state tournament appearances, Harpenau hopes that his Remsen St. Mary’s teammates and coaches remember him for how he conducted himself as a person, and as a leader.

“I just hope that people think I did it the right way,” Blaine said. “That I put the jersey in a better place, and helped the program improve. Be a guy that all the young guys can look up to, and be a good influence.”


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