SIOUX CITY — Hunter Krommenhoek couldn’t hide the smile on his face as he walked up the pitcher’s mound on Saturday.
The North High School senior — who is the primary catcher for the Stars — was getting ready to pitch for the first time in his high school career.
Krommenhoek threw three innings of relief in a 5-1 Stars win over Le Mars at Bud Speraw Field in a nonconference game.
“I knew I needed to throw strikes and let my defense work,” Krommenhoek said. “All week, I knew that we were going to need pitching, because this was our sixth game this week. I knew I would be up there at one point, and I told (coach Nick Tillo) that I would be ready.”
He knew it would be a weird feeling going from everyday catcher to pitcher, which he hadn’t done since his eighth-grade year.
“It’s just so different, because I’m usually behind the plate,” Krommenhoek said. “It was funny. I knew I could hit the spots and the targets. I was relying on letting (Le Mars) put the ball in play.”
Krommenhoek has a fastball and a curveball, and has been working on the curveball during preseason workouts when throwing the ball back to his pitcher. He also gets tips on how to throw the curveball from Frerichs.
Krommenhoek has been the Stars’ catcher ever since he was a freshman, and the North senior has enjoyed every pitch of it.
“I’ve enjoyed my time back there and enjoyed playing for North,” Krommenhoek said.
Krommenhoek gave up a double that ended up being the Bulldogs’ lone run, and allowed six Bulldogs to reach base.
He also helped retire two Bulldogs baserunner to record back-to-back outs in the fifth inning.
The first Bulldogs baserunner who got caught was sophomore Ethan Kuiken. Kuiken got on with an RBI double that scored Connor Ouradnik.
Jacob Bixenman put the ball in play, but it was right to Krommenhoek.
Kuiken froze on the hard-hit ball, and eventually was tagged out in the baseline between second and third base while Bixenman reached first base on a fielder’s choice.
A few moments later, Krommenhoek saw Bixenman had a big lead over at first and fired the ball over to Stars first baseman Nick Opsahl.
Bixenman took off for first right when Opsahl caught it, but Opsahl threw it right away to Frerichs.
Krommenhoek went over to first base to cover in case Bixenman had a chance to escape back to first, but Krommenhoek applied the tag about 20 feet from the bag to end the fifth inning.
Even though neither Kuiken nor Bixenman reached base earlier in the game, Krommenhoek had an idea of the Bulldogs’ baserunning tendencies.
“Out of my eye, I knew he was getting a big lead,” Krommenhoek said. “I said, ‘Okay, we’re going to try this one time.’ My catcher (Drew Kinnaman) was still looking at my coach waiting for the sign. So, then I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to get him right here.’
“He took his step, he went, then I took mine.”
North starting pitcher Tyler Kjose got the win in his four-inning stint.
Kjose allowed three baserunners — two singles to Le Mars sophomore Mason Parrott and he hit Alec Dreckman with a pitch in the fourth inning.
Kjose didn’t allow a walk, and he struck out six Le Mars hitters.
“I was very happy with how he performed,” Krommenhoek said. “He threw strikes and his curveball was looking great. For his first outing, there’s nothing much more you can ask for.”
Kjose also got some run support in the first inning.
The Stars’ first three hitters reached base by walks surrendered by Kuiken.
Tyrell Blakey turned those three walks into two runs on a two-run single.
“We hit well early on and had good at-bats,” Tillo said. “It’s always good to start the first inning on top when usually we’re starting behind.”
North’s final two runs were scored on a Kuiken balk that scored Caleb Crum in the second inning, then Evan Helvig had an RBI triple in the third inning after a two-out single by Hudson Krommenhoek.
The Stars end the week with a 2-4 slate, as the other win came Thursday in a late-night nail-biter against Sergeant Bluff-Luton.
North has Monday off before going to Council Bluffs Lincoln for a Tuesday doubleheader in the MRAC.
“We had a long, tough week,” Tillo said. “I think it’s a little momentum going forward.”
The Bulldogs had five hits — Parrott had three of them, which were all singles to the left side.
“Mason is one of the better swingers that we have,” Bulldogs coach Trent Eckstaine said. “If anything, he puts together good at-bats. He puts the barrel on it and lets the result speak for itself.”