ALLEMAN - North Polk did what it does best to beat rival Ballard in a non-conference baseball game Tuesday at Alleman.
The Comets took advantage of early Ballard mistakes, they were strong defensively in the field and pitchers Jake Johnson and Colten Parkins limited Ballard to just four hits in a 3-2 victory.
Johnson struggled to keep his curveball down early as Ballard took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. Jack Luster hit an RBI single and Isaac Schafbuch drew a bases-loaded walk for the Bombers.
But North Polk came back with a run in the bottom of the inning, off Bomber pitcher Clayton Poots, when Colby Cupp singled and Jeff Lamp drove him in with a base hit.
Johnson began to find his groove in the second inning. Ballard only picked up two hits off him over the next five innings.
“I was trying to hit my low and outside corner,” Johnson said. “My curveball, I was trying to get low. They hit a couple of them (because) I was leaving them up, but other than that, (I) was putting them down low.”
North Polk went in front to stay in the bottom of the second.
Mason Russell reached on an error, was sacrificed to second by Johnson and scored on an error off a ball hit by Dawson Deitch. Cupp then singled in Anthony Capaldo with the eventual winning run after Capaldo reached on a fielder’s choice and took second on an error.
Cupp finished the game 3-for-3 with one run and RBI apiece from the leadoff spot.
“I like being the leadoff hitter,” Cupp said. “(I) try to get things going early and get a couple runs across the board.”
Johnson, meanwhile, gave up four hits in six innings before turning the game over to Parkins in the seventh. Johnson finished with four strikeouts and he issued only one walk.
Johnson put a lot of trust in his defense to get the win. The Comets made several big plays in the infield, especially Cupp at shortstop and Capaldo at third base.
“I believe in my infield,” Johnson said. “I knew if (Ballard) hit it on the ground they’d be able to get the outs for me, so I decided to throw for contact.”
Parkins didn’t allow a base runner and he had one strikeout in the seventh inning to get the save.
The victory put North Polk at 19-6. It was the Comets’ 12th win in 14 games after a 7-4 start.
“Our pitchers have been doing really well, and up and down the lineup we’ve been hitting the ball really well,” Johnson said. “We’re all finding our spot on the team and (doing) what we’ve got to do.”
Ballard fell to 11-14 with the loss. Poots threw fantastic going up against a great team in his second-career start, giving up one earned run on five hits with three strikeouts and one walk.
“We didn’t expect to see Poots on the mound this year, but he’s come out and thrown two really good games,” Ballard head baseball coach Nick Steenhagen said. “Sixty-one pitches in six innings is pretty efficient, regardless of how fast he throws. He throws strikes, (but) you’ve got to have defense behind you.”
The defense just wasn’t there against North Polk. Ballard finished the game with five errors.
“Errors are not going to win you baseball games,” Steenhagen said. “That’s obviously a good baseball team — North Polk has a history of playing really well. I thought we had a pretty good chance putting up two in the first and then kind of let her slip away. Those guys know how to play baseball and tonight we did some uncharacteristic things.”
Kade Reinertson was 2-for-3 and Luster and Clay Estrem each had one single for Ballard. Luster also finished with one run and RBI apiece, Schafbuch had one RBI and Taylor Roberts scored once.
North Polk 3, Ballard 2
B 200 000 0 - 2 4 5
NP 120 000 X - 3 5 1
B: Clayton Poots and Kade Reinertson.
NP: Jake Johnson, Colten Parkins (7) and Matthew Antle.