NP pulls off 4-2 victory at home

ALLEMAN – Overcoming multiple mistakes in the field showed why the North Polk baseball team is ranked first in Class 2A June 25 when the Comets took on 3A rival Ballard in Alleman.

North Polk committed an uncharacteristic five errors on the night, but great pitching from Grant Lang and Jacob Hadaway and a productive third inning lifted the Comets to a 4-2 victory over the Bombers.

"We were excited to play, but we weren’t keyed in to play good baseball," North Polk head coach Dave Middleton said. "We got off to a shaky start and you’ve got to give Ballard credit; I can’t tell you how many different times when (Lang) would finally get up to two strikes and they’d just foul pitches off and extend their at-bats. Bottom line is we were fortunate to win a game where we made five errors. We’ve just got to play better defense."

Two of North Polk’s defensive miscues came in the first inning, allowing Ballard to take a 1-0 lead.

Taylor Bridgewater reached on an error to lead off the game and then an errant throw off a bunt by Jacob Bernholtz put runners on the corners with no outs. Bridgewater then scored on a passed ball to give Ballard the early lead.

Lang managed to force Kordell Lettow to fly out to him and then strike out the Bombers’ Collin Fopma and Kenny Randolph to prevent more damage from being done.

North Polk tied the game in the bottom of the inning after Grant Schiltz hit a one-out single, Greene walked and a double steal plus a wild pitch allowed Schiltz to score.

Neither team scored in the second inning. In the top of the third, Bridgewater singled and Bernholtz was safe on another Comet error to put runners on the corners again with one out, but this time a 4-6-3 double play off a ball hit by Lettow prevented Ballard from scoring.

North Polk nearly broke the game open in the bottom of the third. Austin Hillebo and Reed Smith drew back-to-back walks and Grant Schiltz was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs. Russell Greene then stepped up to the plate and singled in Hillebo for the go-ahead run.

Landon Manfull came in to pitch for Lane Volkman, but North Polk managed to score two more runs in the inning off a pair of wild pitches to go up 4-1.

The score stayed that way until the top of the fifth. Chris Neville drew a lead-off walk and Bridgewater singled him home with one out. Bridgewater moved to second, but he was unable to score after Lang forced Bernholtz to line out to Hadaway at shortstop and then Lettow grounded back to Hadaway for the final out.

Nick Hartman took the mound for Ballard with one batter on base in the fifth and he struck out two batters and forced a pop out in foul territory to help keep Ballard in the game.

The Bombers threatened offensively again in the sixth when Jacob Nethers reached on a two-out error and Matthew Poots followed with a walk. But Lang came through with a huge strikeout on a 3-2 pitch against Neville to maintain a 4-2 lead for the Comets.

North Polk had a chance to increase its lead in the bottom of the sixth when Cole Jackson drew a two-out walk and Hillebo followed with a single, but Hartman forced Reed Smith to ground out to end the inning.

In the top of the seventh, North Polk brought in all-state ace Jacob Hadaway to close the game. Hadaway proceeded to strike out pinch-hitter Spencer Struve and Bridgewater before forcing Bernholtz to line out to Smith in right field to end the game.

"The guys don’t get down for very long, Middleton said. They’ve just got to show some of that mental toughness earlier and try putting a lid on it as early as they can. That helps you win games a lot easier."

Lang picked up the victory to help North Polk improve to 19-3 on the season. He struck out eight batters, walked two and allowed just two hits in six innings.

The Comet pitcher said he was unfazed by the fielding woes his team had, noting that the veteran team with two state tournament appearances under its belt knew how to respond to adversity.

"When you get errors, you’ve just got to push through as a team and every run counts," Lang said. "It doesn’t matter if we have five errors or none, we won by two as a team."

Hadaway finished with two strikeouts and he didn’t allow a hit or walk to earn the save.

Lang, Greene, Schiltz, Jackson and Hillebo each had one single to account for the Comet hits.

Ballard fell to 10-8 with the loss. Bomber head coach John Cisna said the third inning was the difference in the game.

"North Polk has one of the most reputable programs around and Dave does a great job developing those kids year in and year out," Cisna said. "When you play a quality team like North Polk, you have to play seven innings of strong baseball. We played six and thus got beat."

Bridgewater had a good night as he reached base three times, collected both Bomber hits and tallied one run and RBI apiece. Lettow also drove in a run, Neville walked, stole a base and scored once and Fopma picked up a steal.

Volkman took the loss as he allowed four runs on three hits with three walks in two innings. Manfull gave up one hit and walk apiece with one strikeout in two innings and Hartman threw two scoreless innings, allowing a hit and a walk and striking out two.

North Polk 4, Ballard 2

B 100 010 0 – 2 2 1

NP 103 000 X – 4 5 5

B: Lane Volkman, Landon Manfull (3), Nick Hartman (5) and Kenny Randolph

NP: Grant Lang, Jacob Hadaway (7) and Grant Schiltz

WP: Lang

LP: Volkman

SV: Hadaway