CARROLL, Iowa — A Class 1A state title just wasn’t in the cards for the Remsen St. Mary's High School baseball team this year.
On a hot and muggy afternoon at Merchants Park in Carroll, Remsen St. Mary’s saw its season come to an end in the state semifinals with a 5-3 upset loss in extra innings to No. 4-seeded Lansing-New Albin Kee.
The loss marked the third consecutive season that the Hawks lost in the state semifinal round.
It was a gut-punch of a defeat for RSM, who went into the tournament with the No. 1 seed.
Remsen St. Mary's was confident it could push through to its first state title game appearance since the Hawks’ 2016 championship season.
“It just hurts a lot,” Remsen senior Blaine Harpenau said. “We’ve been in this situation a lot. We’ve been in the semifinals and we lost those two games, but this one just hurts more, knowing that this is your last time wearing this uniform, and playing for this program. I just love this place, and wish it wouldn’t end.”
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The Remsen St. Mary's Hawks were hurt by an inability to take advantage of big offensive situations. RSM stranded 16 runners in the game, and left multiple runners on base in the first, second, fifth, sixth, eighth, and ninth innings.
“We couldn’t get the big hit,” Remsen St. Mary's coach Dean Harpenau said. “If we could’ve gotten the key hit with the bases loaded there, it just wasn’t meant to be today. We just couldn’t get it done. We made too many mistakes.”
Remsen St. Mary’s went into the top of the seventh inning with a 2-1 lead, as a pair of second inning runs gave the Hawks an advantage for most of the game.
The Hawks could've had more runs in the second, but were hamstrung by a pair of baserunning mistakes.
RSM went into the top of the seventh with the one-run lead, but a sacrifice fly by Kee catcher Buddy Hill scored junior Brayden Mathis from third, tying the game at 2-2.
The contest went into extra innings and remained deadlocked until the top of the ninth, when Chance Colsch broke the tie with an RBI single to center, scoring junior Tyson Cota. Two batters later, junior Jonah Reinke drove in Colsch with a double to left-center. Reinke then scored on a single from freshman Cam Lind, as Kee extended its lead to 5-2.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Hawks pitcher Cael Ortmann led off the inning with a single and later scored from third on a passed ball. But Kee pitcher Dalton Dibert struck out the side to finish off Remsen, with the final out coming on a whiff from Hawks junior Carter Schorg.
“Everyone gave their best shot today,” Hawks senior Levi Waldschmitt said. “At the end of the day, Kee had more plays at the end. We started a rally in the bottom of the ninth, but just didn’t get it done in the end.”
With the win, Kee advanced to its first state title game since 2011, when the Kee Hawks lost to Martensdale-St. Mary’s 8-3.
Remsen outhit the Kee Hawks on Wednesday — 11 hits to seven — but Kee’s hits came when it counted. Of Kee’s seven hits, three came in the top of the ninth inning, when the team pushed across three runs.
Dilbert got the win for Kee after pitching seven innings, allowing one unearned run on eight hits and two walks, with six strikeouts.
Ortmann got the loss after allowing three earned runs on three hits and four walks. Schorg got the no-decision after allowing one earned run on two hits over four innings. Sophomore Isaiah Gerrets also came on in relief for the Hawks, and allowed one earned run on two hits over 2 1/3.
According to Coach Harpenau, just a few things breaking the other way could've flipped the outcome for RSM.
“This was the plan,” Dean Harpenau said. “Cael maybe was off a little bit, but he’d could’ve gotten out of that (ninth) inning, those three runs, that leadoff ball, we could’ve maybe gotten out of that inning unscathed, and maybe then we’re hooting and hollering. But that’s baseball.”
Wednesday marked the end for a highly successful group of Remsen seniors that just couldn’t get over the final hump in their high school careers. Blaine Harpenau, and Jeremy Koenck made it to the state tournament in all five of their seasons with the program, but never got the chance to play for a state title.
It was also the final game together for the father-son combo of Dean and Blaine Harpenau.
Both father and son admitted that it stung to see their time together come to an end in such heartbreaking fashion, but coach Harpenau is still proud of all he accomplished over the past five seasons with Blaine, while his other son, Brady, served as an assistant coach.
“Obviously, that is the really tough part,” Dean Harpenau said. “I’ll still reminisce, and still have a lot of great times with both my boys. The hard part is that all three of us are here, and that is probably not going to happen again. Now it’s my new adventure, I’ve got to see if I can get these guys ready to go next year.”
Although the Hawks will lose several members of their starting lineup to graduation, Blaine Harpenau is certain that there are big things ahead for the Remsen St. Mary’s baseball team.
“People always say every year, St. Mary’s graduates a huge senior class, they’re going to be down and going to be done next year. That’s not true,” Blaine Harpenau said. “These guys are going to be just as hungry, and even hungrier. They’re going to be a hell of a team.”
“Next year, St. Mary’s baseball will be right back.”
The Hawks end their season with a 27-4 overall record.
To see a photo gallery from Wednesday's games from Carroll and Iowa City, go to siouxcityjournal.com.
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