LATE TO THE PARTY
Hawks sluggish early, pay with their season against Norsemen
And Hawks’ head coach Kyle Galetich shouldered the blame.
“It is what it is. We weren’t ready to play and that falls on me,” he said. “I can’t really put my finger on the why right now.”
Flat, perhaps even a little tentative, and quite simply off its game during the early stages of its postseason opener, South Hamilton quickly fell behind Heart of Iowa Conference rival Roland-Story 4-0 and could never catch up in an 8-4 season-ending loss at Tate Johnson Field.
The Norsemen (18-18), who will face third-ranked Dike-New Hartford in Saturday’s district final, mustered just five hits, three of which came in a two-run fifth inning. They also scored two runs in the first, second and sixth, three innings in which they conjured up a combined two hits.
South Hamilton (11-9) didn’t do itself any favors. Pitchers Zeke Balderas and Cole Berg struggled to locate their pitches, resulting in a combined seven walks and three batters that were plunked by pitches. Roland-Story took those free passes and made the Hawks pay by swiping six bases and moving runners along with three sacrifice bunts.
“We’ve had nights like that where the walks and hit batters are an issue, but at this point we should be able to pick up (the pitchers) a little bit,” Galetich said. “It just seemed like we never got close enough to put enough pressure on them where we could capitalize.”
South Hamilton more than doubled up the Norsemen in hits and finished with 11. Berg, Balderas, Brock Galetich and Cade Flaugh all smacked two singles, but the Hawks also stranded nine base runners, seven of them in scoring position.
Cade Balvanz, Tycin Barkema and Lane Swenson all pitched in one hit in a losing effort.
Nick Stole put Roland-Story in front to stay with a one-out RBI single to center in the opening inning.
Ahead 2-0 in the second, Jon Sansgaard came up with the elusive two-RBI infield single. He was able to beat out a slow roller through the tall infield grass; Zach Magnuson scored easily from third and Zach Twedt never even hesitated as he also scored from second.
South Hamilton came to life in the third to cut its deficit in half. Berg, Galetich and Balderas ripped consecutive singles to open the inning. Balderas collected an RBI with his shot to center and Cade Balvanz plated another run moments later on a ground ball to the left side.
Freddie Lewis walked in the fourth and eventually scored from second on a line-drive base hit back up the middle by Galetich that closed South Hamilton’s deficit to 4-3.
And that’s when Roland-Story stepped on the gas.
Whatever momentum the Hawks owned quickly vanished when, on the second pitch of the fifth inning, Stole turned on a Balderas fastball and deposited it over the fence in right field for a solo home run. Nolan Faber followed with a double into the gap in right-center and two batters later Jayden McDonald laced a shot to the same part of the park to drive in Faber and make it 6-3.
“They swung the bats well when they needed to (in the fifth inning),” Kyle Galetich said.
Two more runs without a hit in the sixth pushed the Norsemen’s margin to 8-3.
South Hamilton, which swept a regular season doubleheader from Roland-Story on June 14, tacked on an unearned run in the seventh on an RBI ground ball off the bat of Carter Hewitt, but the Hawks were unable to apply enough pressure to make the Norsemen nervous.
Stole finished with a game-high three RBIs and was the lone Roland-Story stick with multiple hits.
Tuesday marked the final prep game for Balderas, Berg and injured teammate Sam Lewis. Kyle Galetich says one subpar performance by the team won’t diminish the contributions from his seniors over the past four years.
“I’m not disappointed in our effort and I know those guys are hurting right now,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for a better group of three seniors to coach. We’re going to focus on what they’ve done for this program.”
Roland-Story 8, South Hamilton 4
Class 2A District 11 Semifinal
Tuesday at Dike
Rol-Story 220 022 0 — 8 5 1
S. Ham 002 100 1 — 4 11 1
Steven Berends, Zach Twedt (4) and Matthew Phelan. Zeke Balderas, Cole Berg (5) and Lane Swenson. W — Berends. L — Balderas. Multiple hits — R-S: Nick Stole; SH: Berg, Balderas, Brock Galetich, Cade Flaugh. 2B — R-S: Nolan Faber, Jayden McDonald. HR — R-S: Stole. RBI — R-S: Stole (3), Jon Sansgaard (2), Faber, McDonald; SH: Galetich, Balderas, Cade Balvanz, Carter Hewitt.