North Tama tracks down Tigers in 11-inning thriller

TRAER – There were at least several reasons for the Redhawks’ season to come to a close Thursday.

Though North Tama had a response for each and every one to keep its postseason alive.

Overcoming six errors and a 4-1 first inning deficit, the North Tama baseball team rallied for an 8-4 victory in 11 innings over Iowa Valley in a Class 1A District 11 semifinal at J.L. Lister Field.

“Our boys just had the iron running through their veins tonight,” North Tama coach Dan Kopriva said. “They saw defeat several times and just worked out of it time after time.

“Getting down 4-1 took us out of our game a little bit, but it was a good job of our guys not giving up. We made a lot of mistakes, but we made up for it too late in the game.”

The Redhawks (28-10) advance to face BGM (25-4) in the District 11 final Saturday at 7 p.m. in Brooklyn. North Tama defeated the Bears 7-2 in last year’s Class 1A Substate 6 final in Marshalltown to earn a trip to the state tournament. The Bears defeated Belle Plaine 13-1 – in five innings – Thursday in Brooklyn.

With neither squad producing a run over the last four innings, North Tama finally broke through in the top of the 11th. Brent Billerbeck led off with a walk, stole second and reached third on Dalton Hulme’s groundout, before scoring the go-ahead run on a passed ball.

Caden Stuart followed with a walk to chase relief pitcher Briar Kinnick, though North Tama wasn’t done. Huston Danker singled on a ball that bounced off new pitcher Cody VanDee and Brody Hulme plated Stuart and Danker with a looping hit to right field. Cameron Hoeg’s grounder through the infield drove in Brody Hulme for the final margin.

“The confidence factor was huge, we got runners in scoring position and then finally got things to go our way,” said Brody Hulme, who doubled twice and drove in three runs. “We were hitting the ball well and putting it in play all night and it finally went our way.”

Getting to that final frame, however, seemed an unlikely endeavor for the Redhawks as left-handed reliever Jacob Wrage found himself in jams in the Tigers’ last five at-bats, including a bases-loaded threat in the seventh.

“Jacob is a gamer, he’s the guy that we want on the mound in crunch time,” Kopriva said of the senior, who replaced Dalton Hulme in the seventh.

“(Dalton) Hulme pitched a heck of a game and when it’s on the line, we can count on both of them. … Jacob didn’t have his stuff tonight, but he worked out of it. We had to fiddle around and walk a few guys to get to certain people, but I’m real happy with his performance.”

After Cullen Yardley’s infield single forced a pitching change for the Redhawks, back-to-back walks to VanDee and John Gromley filled the bases with just one out. Wrage kept the game going by inducing a pair of groundouts as the Redhawks made force outs at home and first to stay afloat.

“I had to get the outs and strikeouts preferably because we didn’t have any outs,” said Wrage, who fanned Austin Schlabach before issuing a pair of free bases. “I just tried to make the pitches. … Having that experience before is huge.”

Iowa Valley advanced a runner to third in each of their next three at-bats and had another in scoring position in the 11th, though North Tama refused to budge. Despite committing five of their six errors after the first frame, the Redhawks kept the Tigers off the board over the final 10 innings, where Iowa Valley stranded 12 of its 14 runners. North Tama left 13 on the bases.

The Tigers (19-6), entered the game on a four-game win streak and appeared headed to their 11th win in 12 games after seizing a three-run cushion in the first.

Gromley’s RBI single led to a three-run triple by Austin Carney as the Tigers answered Dalton Hulme’s sacrifice fly that plated Billerbeck in the first. Wrage’s run-producing groundout trimmed the deficit to two in the second and Clayton Blocker added an RBI single in the fourth to bring the Redhawks within one.

Brody Hulme’s bloop double down the third base line brought in Brandon Kaufmann to knot the game in the sixth.

Wrage (7-4) earned the win throwing five shutout frames, while allowing three hits, fanning five and walking four. Dalton Hulme surrendered four runs (three earned) on five hits with four walks and three strikeouts.


Scoring four runs in its final at-bat North Tama defeated Iowa Valley 10-6 in the Kubik Finch Tournament.