Hulme handcuffs GMG, Redhawks ramble on

TRAER – North Tama was every bit the disciplined baseball team its head coach had asked it to be before the game, and sophomore pitcher Brody Hulme was equally grateful after.

Hulme surrendered nothing more than a bloop single to GMG, facing only one batter more than the minimum as the defense behind him made certain of the Redhawks’ first-round postseason victory over their Iowa Star Conference neighbors.

North Tama (27-10) rapped out 11 hits and supplied Hulme with five runs worth of support in the first half inning – batting as the visitors – and the defense played error-free in a 13-0, five-inning triumph for the hometown team in the Class 1A District 11 quarterfinals Tuesday at J.L. Lister Field.

Hulme (7-1) struck out two, walked none and earned his sixth straight win with his complete-game one-hitter. It might have otherwise been a perfect game if not for a flare into center field by GMG’s ninth hitter, Josh Gruen, with two outs in the bottom of the third.

The Wolverines (5-19) hit a few balls squarely throughout the contest, but North Tama’s defense did not wilt in the heat.

“We knew they had a few good hitters at the top of their lineup and that Austin Vaughn was a good base-stealer,” Hulme said of GMG. “I knew I had a good defense behind me so I was just trying to throw strikes. I didn’t want to give up many walks.

“One hit is fine with me, as long as we got the win.”

Hulme went to full count a few times but wouldn’t back down to GMG’s bats, who were prepared to swing. The Wolverines were retired on three flyouts, two hard-hit liners (in the bottom of the first) and eight groundouts. Both strikeouts were on called third strikes.

“Before the game I told the guys we’d have to scratch and claw for our runs,” said GMG coach Jay Beichley, “and the defense had to make sure we didn’t compound walks and errors.”

North Tama made that quite the challenge, putting the ball in play throughout the early going. The Redhawks tapped junior right-hander Josh Raymond for 10 hits in his 4 2/3 innings before a climbing pitch count and an insurmountable deficit chased him from the mound. North Tama sent 10 batters to the plate in the top of the first, combining four hits with two walks and a hit batsman to tally five runs right out of the gate.

Dalton Hulme, Caden Stuart and Clayton Blocker each had RBI singles during the at-bat, and Brody Hulme broke the school’s single-season record when he was hit by a pitch.

The sophomore was plunked again by Raymond – the last batter Raymond would face in the top of the fifth – to up Hulme’s new record to 21 this summer. He finished 1-for-2 at the plate and his courtesy runner Riley Rohach scored three times.

Jacob Wrage went 2-for-5 with a run, two stolen bases and three RBIs from the leadoff spot, while Cameron Hoeg was 2-for-4 with a two-run single to greet reliever Bridger Claassen in North Tama’s four-run fifth.

A dropped fly ball off the bat of Clayton Blocker plated two more runs for the Redhawks, pushing the score to its lopsided final.

Huston Danker was 1-for-4 with three runs and two RBIs, while Brandon Kaufman singled and scored twice. Brent Billerbeck, Dalton Hulme, Stuart and Blocker each added one of North Tama’s 13 singles.

“We just wanted to take care of business, and to do that we wanted to play fundamental baseball,” said Redhawk head coach Dan Kopriva. “Come out and throw strikes, we knew they were going to put the ball in play, and the infield made some great plays and the routine plays.

“Plus we hit the ball hard and kept it on the ground.”

Raymond (2-5) was tagged for 10 hits, 12 runs – seven earned – with six walks, two hit batsmen and two strikeouts. Claassen faced three batters, giving up an unearned run on one hit.

The odds were long against the Wolverines, considering they’d been previously defeated by the Redhawks by scores of 16-1 in four innings and 19-3 in six innings.

“The way Josh threw against BCLUW last week we knew he had good stuff, so we wanted to keep him out there as long as we could,” said Beichley. “It was just hot today and he started to get fatigued.”

Extra pitches proved costly as the GMG defense committed five errors, prolonging the at-bats for a North Tama squad that averaged 8.9 runs per game going into the contest.

“Sometimes as a coach you worry about (overlooking a team), but we talked that you have to respect every opponent,” Kopriva said. “The score’s zero-to-zero. We talked about the things we needed to do to take care of business, like being disciplined at the plate and hitting line drives and swinging at good pitches.”

The Redhawks will try to apply the same approach for their district semifinal foe, Iowa Valley (19-5) when the two teams meet Thursday at 7 p.m. in Traer. Brody Hulme was on the mound the last time these teams squared off on June 1 in the Kubik Finch Tournament – a 10-6 North Tama triumph.

Iowa Valley advanced through the first round after receiving a forfeit from Meskwaki Settlement.

GMG’s season ends with a third straight loss, but every player returns as the Wolverines’ roster featured no seniors.