As the semifinals kicked off on Thursday at state baseball in Des Moines, a pair of underdogs from Siouxland were the most surprising, but only to those who hadn’t been paying attention.
In the 1A Remsen St. Mary’s may have been a #6 seed, but had a true number one pitcher in sophomore Blaine Harpenau, who came into Thursday at 15-0 with an ERA of 0.49. He made easy work of the Hawks opening opponent, Martensdale-St. Mary’s, pitching seven full innings, including not allowing a hit until the bottom of the seventh.
That 4-2 win moved the Hawks on to the semis, where they got five days of rest before facing off with Alburnett, where again, Harpenau pitched a gem, holding the high scoring pirates to three runs, before walking a batter in the bottom of the seventh as he hit his 110 pitch limit. As Remsen St. Mary’s watched their ace leave the mound, the pressure was on junior Skyler Waldschmitt, who gave up a pair of singles to load the bases with no outs. Waldschmitt picked up one out, but a sacrifice squeeze was played to perfection, as Alburnett walked off with the win 4-3.
In the 2A West Sioux entered state as a #6 seed as well, facing off with #3 New Hampton in the opening round. And in a similar story to Remsen St. Mary’s, the Falcons relied on their own stud pitcher, junior lefty Hunter Dekkers, who threw four shutout innings, and provided an inside the park home run on the offense, that helped West Sioux go up 7-0 heading into the fifth when he exited, to make sure he wouldn’t be too taxed heading into the next round.
In Thursday’s semifinal, the Falcons were faced with #2 Van Meter, who was coming off a 17-7 drubbing of Underwood in six innings in their quarterfinal match up. The Falcons couldn’t muster a hit until the fifth inning against Bulldogs pitcher Zach Pleggenkuhle, who at one time had 13 straight strikeouts. West Sioux’s best chance to break through came in the top of the fifth with the bases loaded and two outs, but they weren’t able to take advantage, with the game ending in a 3-0 shutout. Pleggenkuhle finished with 17 strikeouts, tying for the third most in state tournament history.