DES MOINES - The underdogs weren't overwhelmed, but by the end they had been outplayed.
Top-seeded Bishop Garrigan of Algona rode its right-handed ace past North Tama and the Redhawks uncharacteristically shaky defense, and the Golden Bears advanced with a 3-1 victory in Thursday's Class 1A quarterfinals at the Iowa High School State Baseball Tournament at Principal Park.
Garrigan senior Austin Vaske struck out 12 in a three-hitter that was one out shy of being a shutout. Brandon Kaufman doubled off the left fielder's glove with one out in the top of the seventh inning, and Huston Danker's two-out single brought the tying run to the plate for North Tama (21-13).
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
North Tama junior pitcher Jacob Wrage delivers to the plate against Austin Vaske of Bishop Garrigan during their Class 1A quarterfinal game at the Iowa High School State Baseball Tournament on Monday at Principal Park in Des Moines. Wrage held the top-seeded Golden Bears to only five hits, but Vaske struck out 12 in a three-hitter to lead Garrigan to a 3-1 triumph over the unranked Redhawks.
Being that close was more than most expected out of the Redhawks - maybe even themselves.
"I think our team, I felt, was pretty relaxed and we played the underdog role the whole way here," said North Tama head coach Dan Kopriva. "We had three upsets to get here and we knew we could give this team a good game as long as we played defense."
That, however, turned out to be the bugaboo. A Redhawk defense that made only two errors in four postseason victories to reach state was ticketed with three in this game, plus a pair of flyballs that could have been gloved.
Monday, July 23
Martensdale-St. Marys 8, Treynor 2
Bishop Garrigan, Algona 3, North Tama 1
Lisbon 5, Lawton-Bronson 4
Mason City Newman 11, Earlham 2
Thursday, July 26
Martensdale-St. Marys (38-5) vs. Bishop Garrigan, Aglona (37-8), 6 p.m.
Lisbon (35-7) vs. Mason City Newman Catholic (34-4), 8 p.m.
Saturday, July 28
Semifinal winners, 2 p.m.
"To beat this team we had to be pretty much errorless," said Kopriva.
But the Golden Bears (37-8) broke the scoreless tie with an unearned run in the third, taking advantage of the only walk issued by North Tama left-hander Jacob Wrage (6-3). Grant Reding moved to second on a passed ball, took third when Reece Wadle's fly to right dropped, and scored when Zach Keith's two-out grounder was booted.
"We got here on defense and pitching - a little disappointing on the defense today, but those guys are the ones that got us here," said Kopriva.
The 1-0 deadlock lasted until the sixth, when Jake Kollasch bounced a single through the left side of North Tama's pulled-in infield to score a pair.
It gave Garrigan a 3-0 lead and took all the heat off Vaske (11-1), an Iowa Central Community College commit.
"I expected a little bit more runs from my guys but you can't just expect it," he said. "(Kollasch) had a big hit for me and the pressure was off, and it felt pretty good."
Vaske took to the mound for the third straight game for Garrigan. In four postseason appearances, he's racked up 37 strikeouts in 22 innings.
"We don't see that much fast pitching, that caught us off-guard," said Wrage. "He had a good curveball to keep us off-balance and we didn't put the ball in play enough."
Justin Jacobs had the only other hit for North Tama, breaking up Vaske's no-hitter with one out in the fourth.
"Our gameplan hasn't changed the whole tournament," said Kopriva. "We're a .280 hitting team, I think the lowest in the tournament probably. We just try to find a way to get on base and bunt people over and try to score runs, and holding the opponent down as much as possible."
Limiting a Golden Bears lineup averaging 8.2 runs and batting .342 with a 1A-best 33 home runs was exactly what Wrage did in his third start of the postseason.
"I was expecting more runs," Kopriva admitted of Garrigan. "All the reports say they hit the heck out of the ball one through nine, and Wrage kept them off-balance, got a lot of flyball outs."
Garrigan didn't piece any hits together in the same inning until the sixth, when Alex Boisjolie and John Burns got back-to-back singles to start the frame. Andrew McGuire's bunt pushed both into scoring position, and Kollasch's seeing-eye grounder drove in what proved to be the game-winning runs.
"Give North Tama credit," said Vaske. "They stuck in the whole time, played pretty good defense. They played us pretty tight."
Danker, an eighth-grader, slapped a single to center to score Kaufman from third and break up the shutout.
"It is mixed emotions," Kopriva said after having coached his first state tournament game. "We got the start in the game exactly how we wanted, we're big underdogs and we gave them a pretty good game. You've just got to come out those first few innings and make your plays and try to put a little pressure on them. Unfortunately we didn't have enough baserunners to bunt and move guys over.
"It was kind of nice to see the goose egg get knocked off the last inning, we put a couple nice hits together in the lower half of the lineup."
Wrage induced 10 flyouts and seven groundouts but lost for the first time in three weeks.
"We played relaxed, we're the underdogs here, we knew that and everybody knew that," said Wrage, a junior. "We came out here and played, feeling pretty well, we had confidence in ourselves and we tried to get it done (but) came up a little bit short.
"We knew it was going to be a tall task for us and we did all we could. We could have made a few more plays. It would have been way awesome to get the upset but we didn't."
Vaske's double-digit strikeout performance was his sixth of the season. Burns led the Golden Bears going 2-for-3 with a run scored and a stolen base, as Garrigan totaled just five hits off Wrage.
"It's a relief ... getting that one win under out belt and coming back," said Vaske. "We knew we had to come in and play, but you expect a close game with the underdogs because they come in knowing they have nothing to lose."
Garrigan takes on two-time defending 1A champion Martensdale-St. Marys (38-5) in Thursday's 6 p.m. semifinals, while Lisbon (35-7) faces Newman Catholic of Mason City (34-4) in the 8 p.m. game.