116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Timing is everything.
The goal is to play your best baseball in the biggest games. Hits and plays have to come at the right moment.
Unfortunately, North Linn ran into a more opportunistic foe.
Fifth-seeded and defending state champion Remsen St. Mary's capitalized on scoring chances and a couple miscues to beat the No. 4-seed Lynx, 5-1, in a Class 1A state baseball quarterfinal Friday at Principal Park.
'Timely hitting killed us,' North Linn Coach Travis Griffith said. 'I thought we hit the ball well. Just couldn't come up with the big base hit when we needed to.'
The Lynx matched the Hawks hit for hit and both made the same amount of errors. Both North Linn errors resulted in a run in the three-run fourth and another in the fifth. The Lynx only benefited from one of the Hawks' errors.
'Look at the scoreboard,' North Linn's Jake Hilmer said. 'They had seven hits and we had seven hits. They had two errors and we had two errors. They had some good timing. That's baseball.
'Some days it clicks and some days it doesn't. Today just wasn't our day.'
Remsen St. Mary's eighth-grade starter Blaine Harpenau and the Hawks defense were big reasons North Linn couldn't sustain a rally. Harpenau didn't allow an earned run, striking out four. He showed poise, stranding nine North Linn runners and getting out an inning-ending double play to end the fifth when the first two batters singled. Only Brad Pflughaupt managed two hits for North Linn.
'He's got good stuff,' Griffith said. 'He had a good defense behind him.'
Hawks co-head coach Dean Harpenau said some question starting a young pitcher against the top-ranked 1A team. The staff and players were confident in his son, who improved to 5-2.
'He's pitched big games,' Dean Harpenau said. 'The big stage isn't going to bother him. He commands his pitches. He doesn't walk many guys. He gives us a chance to win the game.'
The day started favorably for North Linn (41-3). Starter Ryan Miller didn't allow a run through the first three innings. The Lynx took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second. Trevor Boge reached on an error and advanced to second on David Seber's fly ball fell in left field.
Brady Henderson stepped to the plate with two outs and delivered the lone key hit. Henderson's bouncer to center scored Boge.
Henderson, a sophomore, hasn't played high school baseball until this season, but has been a versatile asset, pitching, playing multiple positions and serving as designated hitter, like Friday.
'He's been huge for us,' Griffith said. 'He's hit well for us.
'He's a nice utility kid. He's filled a big hole for us, which has been nice, and a great attitude. Great kid.'
The Lynx liked their chances with a lead, but momentum switched to the Hawks in the fourth. After a strong relay threw out a Lynx runner at the plate in the third preventing a second run, R.J. Staab reached on a fielding error. Carter Kuchel tied the game with a double over the left fielder's head to score courtesy runner Jeremy Koenck.
Brett Galles was hit by a pitch and both runners advance on a groundout.
A misplayed fielder's choice scored Kuchel and Galles slid into home on a squeeze bunt by Jacob Loutsch, giving the Hawks a 3-1 lead.
'We were really confident,' Miller said. 'We had a couple errors that cost us some runs.'
The Hawks went up, 4-1, the next frame. Staab reached on a fielder's choice that could have been an inning-ending double play. Kuchel followed with a single that rolled through the right fielder's legs, allowing Koenck to score from first.
Derrick Schorg added an RBI single in the sixth for Remsen St. Mary's. Three of the Hawks' runs came with two out. Griffith said Miller threw well and had 'good stuff,' allowing just one earned run.
'They're a good ballclub,' Griffith said. 'They deserved to win. They outplayed us completely.
'I think our kids will understand it, digest it and hopefully come back for another good school year in athletics for us.'
North Linn reached the semifinals in its first state tournament two seasons ago. The Lynx returned after a year hiatus, but the focus immediately changes to being better a year from now.
'We return eight guys,' Hilmer said. 'It wasn't how we wanted it to end this year. I guess we'll have to figure out how we aren't going to end it like this next year.'
The Lynx won their second straight Tri-Rivers Conference title and set a school record with 41 victories, breaking the old mark of 35 in 2015.
'We've had a phenomenal season,' Griffith said. 'We're not going to hang our heads and cry about it. We got beat by a better team and that's what happens in baseball.'
The remaining two 1A quarterfinals are set for Saturday. Lisbon will make its sixth state appearance and first since 2012. The sixth-seeded Lions (31-5) face No. 3-seed Akron-Westfield (31-2), starting at 1:30 p.m.
The Hawks (28-7) advance to Thursday's semifinal against top-seeded Mason City Newman (33-3). The Knights beat Anita CAM, 10-2, in the opening game of the tournament.
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