QUINTON GROVE: THE NORSE WHISPERER
Senior tosses 3-hitter, Hawks stun No. 7 R-S?in district semis
STORY CITY — Quinton Grove is like a knuckleball pitcher without the knuckleball. He doesn’t throw hard, a fact he readily admits, and his curve is a borderline eephus pitch with the way it slowly loops into the zone.
Would his off-speed style be effective over eight or nine starts in a season? Maybe not, but South Hamilton has needed him to be special only twice, and he’s delivered.
He is the Norse Whisperer.
Making just his second career start on he mound, the quirky-throwing senior right-hander handcuffed seventh-ranked Roland-Story over seven innings and was a key cog in the Hawks’ stunning 3-2 upset win in a Class 2A District 13 semifinal last night at Norsemen Field.
It’s also not a coincidence that both of Grove’s starts, and wins, have been against Roland-Story.
“I haven’t pitched a ton, but I was ready for it,” Grove said after the celebrating died down. “I wasn’t nervous and when coach (Kyle Galetich) told me I was pitching, I said OK.”
It anyone on the Hawks’ roster is mentally tough enough to withstand the big-game environment, it’s Grove. Over the course of his prep career, he’s played in three state basketball tournaments, run in four state cross country meets, and anchored South Hamilton’s 4×800-meter relay to a 2A state track and field title in 2019.
He could have been rattled when his very first pitch of the game was tattoo’ed by Nolan Faber off the fence in left for a stand-up double. Instead, he buckled down and held Roland-Story (13-11) hitless over the next five innings until Faber singled to open the sixth.
Grove sat down the Norsemen in order in the last half of the seventh after South Hamilton (9-7) scored the go-ahead run in the top of the frame.
Grove knows he’s not going to wow hitters with his stuff, but he also knows when he’s winning the mental battle.”
“Slow?” Grove said when asked to describe himself as a pitcher. “I don’t know, slow with a curveball I guess you could call it.”
Grove lived on his curve, a lazy bender with a late break into the zone.
“I pitch him backwards,” Galetich said of Grove, who struck out four. “A normal guy, I’d throw a couple fastballs and then a curveball. But with Q, I’ll throw a couple curveballs and then come back with the fastball.”
The Norsemen made plenty of contact, but the Hawk defense was flawless behind Grove. The speedy outfield — Lane Swenson in left, Freddie Lewis in center and Brandyn Feighner in right — tracked down numerous balls.
“I could feel confident to throw whatever I wanted because I know they’re going to get to every ball they can,” Grove said.
Faber’s lead-off double gave Roland-Story an early 1-0 lead, but South Hamilton caught up in the fourth on an RBI single to left by Swenson.
South Hamilton took its first lead at 2-1 in the sixth. With runners at first and third, Tanner Blue got caught in a rundown between first and second, but it allowed Tycin Barkema to sprint home from third.
Roland-Story knotted it at 2 in the bottom of the sixth on a two-out Thomas Matthes single to center, but the momentum quickly swung back to South Hamilton. Brock Galetich ripped a one-out single to right in the seventh and eventually scored the winning run from second on a throwing error.
“It was good to see the guys have fun,” Kyle Galetich said. “I told them before the game and again when things got close late that they’re the No. 1 seed and all of the pressure is on them.
“South Hamilton baseball, we’re not really known for much. But in the last four years, we’ve been to the district final twice and this year we want to get over the hump.”
Swenson finished 2 for 3 to lead the Hawks’ offense. Barkema, Lewis and Carter Hewitt all singled.
South Hamilton will face Des Moines Christian (13-6) in the district final on Saturday. The game is scheduled to be back in Story City at 7 p.m.
S. Ham 3, Roland-Story 2
Class 2A District 13 Semifinal
Thursday at Story City
SH 000 101 1 — 3 6 0
R-S 100 001 0 — 2 3 2
Quinton Grove and Elijah Balderas. Alex Berends, Nolan Faber (6) and Mathew Phelan. WP — Grove. LP — Faber. Multiple hits — SH: Lane Swenson; R-S: Faber. 2B — R-S: Faber. RBI — SH: Swenson; R-S: A. Berends, Thomas Matthes.