TROY MILLS – North Linn’s Brad Pflughaupt has embraced his role as cleanup hitter.
He carried it out well Thursday night.
Pflughaupt had two hits and drove in the first three runs, powering third-ranked North Linn to a 4-0 victory over Bellevue Marquette in a Class 1A District 8 semifinal at North Linn. Jake Hilmer threw a complete-game shutout, which was the 23rd this season for the Lynx, setting a state and national record.
“I love it,” said Pflughaupt, who climbed to third on the team with 36 RBIs. “I try to get in some runs whenever I can.”
Pflughaupt delivered the timely hit that eluded North Linn the first two innings. Ryan Miller opened the third inning with a double. He stayed put until Pflughaupt stepped to the plate with two outs. He smacked an opposite-field single to left, scoring Miller for a 1-0 lead.
“I knew Ryan was being held on by the shortstop and I had to push it to the left side,” Pflughaupt said. “It was wide open and I got it through. I knew if I got it to the grass Ryan would be able to score easily.”
North Linn Coach Travis Griffith said Pflughaupt had struggled in similar situations late in the regular season. He noticed that Pflughaupt, and classmate David Seber who had two hits and the other RBI, devoted time to improve for the postseason.
“He’s come in and taken a lot of batting practice the last week,” Griffith said. “He came through big. We needed him.”
Pflughaupt provided some insurance with a two-run single in the fifth, knocking in Hilmer and Sean Boardman. Seber plated Pflughaupt for the final run.
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“I think it is seniors stepping up and realizing this could be it,” Griffith said. “We have to have them step up and come through in the clutch.”
Hilmer tossed another gem, improving to 7-2. Hilmer struck out 11 and allowed just four hits. Marquette (11-18) only advanced one runner to third.
“Early on, I had all three pitches working,” said Hilmer, who ended the game by striking out the side. “When I have that, I have a lot of options to keep guys off balance. I thought (catcher) Blake McGraw called a really good game, knowing their hitters and figuring them out early.”
Hilmer was the beneficiary of solid defense. The Lynx didn’t commit an error, thanks in part to a handful of impressive scoops and snags by first baseman Boardman.
“Obviously, the defense made a lot of great plays,” Hilmer said. “No errors. When they do that, it’s usually smooth sailing.”
North Linn’s pitching depth has been a key component to the shutout record. The Lynx have top pitchers in Hilmer and Ryan Miller and have a lot of arms that can stifle batters. A luxury at the 1A level.
“I think it takes a total team effort to get a shutout,” Hilmer said. “It takes good defense, great pitching, and a good game from your catcher and goes to show how deep our staff is, too.
“A national record is pretty special.”
North Linn (38-3) hosts Calamus-Wheatland (20-13) in the district final Saturday, starting at 7 p.m.
CALAMUS-WHEATLAND DROPS MAQUOKETA VALLEY
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Calamus-Wheatland won the rubber match with Maquoketa Valley this season, recording a 9-1 victory Thursday night and advancing to the district final Saturday night at Troy Mills.
The Warriors tallied eight hits, scoring four runs in both the second and fourth innings. Chase Knoche went 3-for-3 with a walk, two runs and two RBIs. Max Hansen added two hits and Caleb Banowetz had two RBIs, hitting an RBI single in the first to drive in Knoche.
Hansen threw six innings for the victory, striking out 10 batters and scattering six hits.
Norm Wilson had three hits, including a double, and scored the Wildcats’ lone run. Brock Hillers had two hits and Heath Gibbs had an RBI for Maquoketa Valley (17-15).
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