Comets hope third time is a charm at state
NP headed back to Principal Park after crushing I-35
NORWALK – North Polk made sure there was no drama in its Class 2A substate baseball showdown with I-35 Tuesday at Norwalk.
The game was for the right to advance to state, but it didn’t appear I-35 wanted anything to do with being on the big stage as North Polk blew the Roadrunners off the field Tuesday.
The Comets jumped out to a 1-0 lead through one inning and then clearly asserted themselves over the next two frames to produce a stunningly decisive 17-0 victory in four innings to earn a spot at state for the third year in a row.
“The bottom line is we just came out and established what we thought as hitters was the strike zone and we were very patient and we made things happen,” North Polk head coach Dave Middleton said. “We had some timely hits early; the game is based on momentum and we had a lot of it.”
It was clear from the get go that North Polk was the more relaxed and hungrier team on the field.
The Comets broke the game open with six runs in the second inning. They already led 1-0 after one inning when Reed Smith singled and made his way home on a Brandon Cory base knock with two outs in the first.
In the Comet half of the second Grant Lang and Clay Cory drew one-out walks and Austin Hillebo and Grant Schiltz followed with RBI hits as Hillebo singled and Schiltz doubled. After Schiltz’ double Smith was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Russell Greene delivered a clutch two-run single to center field.
Brandon Cory hit an infield single that drove in another run and Jacob Hadaway pushed the final run of the inning across with a sacrifice fly.
If I-35 thought that was bad, they were in for a real downer in the third inning.
North Polk erupted for 10 runs in the bottom of the third to turn the game into a laugh-er.
Smith hit a two-run single, Greene doubled in a run, Hadaway and Wyatt Houge smacked back-to-back two-run doubles and Lang singled in another run in the third. Greene later drove in another run in his second at-bat of the inning when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, and pinch-hitter Zach Brecht also was hit with the bases juiced.
“Hitting like that is really contagious,” Hadaway said. “Our hitting came right into this game (from West Marshall on Saturday). We didn’t look at many strikes; we hit the ball, squared it up and put runs across the plate.”
The overwhelming display on offense made life easy for Hadaway on the mound. He gave up four hits and struck out six with two walks to earn an easy victory without having to exert himself too much.
“It was 60 pitches maybe and it’s pretty easy when you’re up that many runs,” Hadaway said. “You just have to throw strikes. I didn’t throw many curveballs; I just let the defense do the work.”
The Comets will take a 29-4 record into the state tournament next week. A state title is on their minds after coming up short against Dyersville-Beckman in last year’s 2A championship game.
“I’ve been here three years and we haven’t won it yet, but we got close last year,” Houge said. “This year hopefully we can take it.”
Middleton said he hopes North Polk will receive the same enthusiastic crowd support its fans provided in the substate game as red and black filled the bleachers in Norwalk.
“For a game an hour away from home we had an outstanding crowd,” Middleton said. “Hopefully we can pull those people back down to Principal (Park) and have them experience a good time watching a ball game.”
The Comets are the No. 2 seed in 2A and they will face Albia (24-16) in the state quarterfinals next Monday at Principal Park in Des Moines. The game is set to start at 8 p.m.
I-35 finished the season at 15-12. Tyler Lester was the losing pitcher after giving up seven runs on six hits with two walks in 1 1/3 innings.
Lester connected for both a single and a double and Tommy Bregar and Kenneth Thompson each had a single to account for the Roadrunner hits.
North Polk 17, I-35 0 (4)
I-35 000 0 – 0 4 1
NP 16(10) X – 17 11 1
I-35: Tyler Lester, Zach Goering (2), Tommy Bregar (3) and Bregar, Lester (3)
NP: Jacob Hadaway and Grant Lang
2B: I-35 – Lester; NP- Hadaway, Russell Greene, Wyatt Houge, Grant Schiltz