HAWARDEN, Iowa – The pitch count clock struck midnight for West Sioux High School ace Seth Salker here Wednesday night and opportunistic Remsen St. Mary’s took advantage.
St. Mary’s, ranked No. 2 in Class 1A by the Iowa Baseball Coaches Association, combined for six runs in its final two at-bats to overtake West Sioux, 7-3, at Bud Kemper Field.
Salker reached his limit of 110 pitches with two outs in the top of the sixth inning after he struck out two straight batters. However, he had walked the leadoff hitter and allowed a base hit before fanning two straight.
Therefore, Bryce Coppock inherited a bit of a problem when he entered the game with runners on second and third, courtesy of the walk, the hit and an error.
West Sioux, though, was still in front 3-1 and Coppock had two strikes on Jeremy Koenck before RSM's No. 7 hitter lined a two-run game-tying single to left field.
The Hawks tacked on four runs in the seventh and moved to 5-0 on the season, handing West Sioux (3-1) its first loss.
Senior Skyler Waldschmitt drove in what proved to be the winning run with a single to right field and was also the winning pitcher. Waldschmitt worked the final two innings in relief of freshman Jaxson Bunkers.
“We’re in it till the end and never give up,” Waldschmitt said. “That was our third time through the lineup so we had a pretty good idea how Salker pitched and came through and started hitting.
“It’s always a big game with them. We knew both teams are going to bring their ‘A’ games so we’re both ready to play each other every time.”
Waldschmitt, by the way, also started the rally in the sixth, coaxing a walk from Salker.
“I think the valuable lesson we learned here today is that our pitchers have to keep their counts down,” West Sioux Coach Brian Engelman said. “Seth threw a good game but he had to come out. He was strong at the end and wanted to stay but those are the rules and he had to come out.
“Maybe he’ll pitch smarter, maybe the 0-2 pitches will get a little closer to make sure they hit the ball somewhere. We just pitched around them too much when we had counts in our favor and they’re smart enough to lay off them. You need to attack them with two strikes, we’ll learn from it.”
Bunkers was effective, although he allowed eight hits in five innings. West Sioux got two more singles off Waldschmitt in the bottom of the seventh and if not for a terrific play by shortstop Blaine Harpenau, could have trimmed the margin.
Harpenau lunged to his right to snare a screaming line drive off the bat of Salker, then flipped to second to complete a game-ending double play.
“We knew it was going to be tough here,” St. Mary’s Coach Dean Harpenau said. “We have a lot of respect for them and they have a lot of respect for us. I had three speeches prepared for the fifth inning, if they ran us out of the place, if they beat us 3-1 or if we came back. They got the job done and I’m proud of them.
“Those are the things you do when you to the state tournament and have a chance to win a state title.”
Spencer Schorg and Blaine Harpenau drew back-to-back one-out walks for the Hawks in the top of the seventh before Waldschmitt delivered the go-ahead single. St. Mary’s then executed a perfect suicide squeeze, with Bunkers laying down a bunt to plate Harpenau.
Wild pitches allowed Waldschmitt to both advance to third and score, making it 6-3, while Koenck knocked in his third run of the game with a single.
“We’re just blessed to have a chance to play,” Dean Harpenau said. “None of us thought we were going to get a chance to play and I felt bad for them. They’ve been to a lot of venues but have never been to a state championship game, so I feel for them.”
West Sioux drew first blood in its opening at-bat when Bryce Coppock drew a leadoff walk and scored on the first of two doubles by senior Austin Wilbert.
St. Mary’s tied it in the second when Xavier Galles doubled, stole third and scored on a ground out by Jake Anderson.
The Falcons broke the 1-1 deadlock with a pair in the fifth.
Freshman Dylan Wiggins hit an opposite-field double to right and before the inning ended, Mason Coppock and Bryce Coppock came through with RBI singles.