BROOKLYN - The only loss on the mound last year for BGM's Zac Freese came against North Tama in the substate final.
Freese still remembers that 7-2 loss to the Redhawks but was able to exact revenge Saturday night during this year's Class 1A District 11 final. Freese allowed just two runs and struck out 12, and the Bears' used a pair of two-run home runs to take control of the game during an 8-2 victory.
"I wanted revenge. I wanted to be on the mound," said Freese, who scattered nine hits and walked just one while hitting another. "When my arm is good, I hound the coach and let him know that I want to be on the mound. This was one of my better games I would say."
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
North Tama senior Brent Billerbeck misplays a throw at second base on a pick-off attempt against BGM’s Nate Beck (4) during the first inning of the Redhawks’ 8-2 loss Saturday in Brooklyn.
The Bears, winners of 18 of their last 20 games, will next play No. 3 Van Meter (31-8) in the Substate 6 final in Marshalltown at 7 p.m. Tuesday. North Tama ends its season at 26-11.
"Baseball is one of those games that is pretty serious. The single-elimination games are tough," North Tama coach Dan Kopriva said. "You just hope to make a few breaks during the games and we didn't those breaks tonight."
The Redhawks didn't crack the scoreboard until the sixth inning when a pair of RBI singles by Brandon Kaufman and Huston Danker trimmed the BGM (26-4) lead to 6-2.
Tanner Jansen's two-run homer in the top of the seventh, though, put the victory away for BGM. Kyle Gritsch's two-run blast in the third inning gave the Bears a 4-0 advantage.
"Both homers were huge. Both were game breakers," said BGM coach Jerod Burns. "Those were huge momentum shifters for us and you kind of saw their kids put their heads down after that, too."
The Bears finished with 10 hits, and three came from Jansen, a freshman who also led off the second inning with a double and then scored on a balk by North Tama starter Jacob Wrage.
That is all the run support Freese (14-1) would need. He threw 126 pitches but he was at his best when the Redhawks had runners on base. North Tama stranded nine runners on the bags in all.
"I came out stronger and I located much better," Freese said when asked to compare this year's performance with last year's loss to Noth Tama. "We also played much better defense and hit it better, too."
Wrage (5-5) pitched into the sixth inning for North Tama but struggled with control and allowed the first BGM batter to reach base in five of the six innings he started. He allowed six runs - four earned - and four hits. He walked three and hit another while fanning nine.
"His control has been a little off. He was tired because we had to use him for five innngs in the last game," Kopriva said. "He battled though. He did a great job tonight. He is the guy we wanted out there."
North Tama didn't have a ton of opportunities to score runs against Freese but the Redhawks failed to come up with the big hit when the chance was there.
They stranded two runners on base in the third and then two runners were left in scoring position in the fifth. Both times, Freese got out of the jams with strikeouts.
The first four hitters reached base in the sixth for North Tama, but Freese pitched around the traffic with two more strikeouts.
Freese gave up two more singles in the seventh but ended the threat and the game with another big strikeout - his 12th of the night.
"They just out-hit us tonight," Kopriva said. "We didn't have many opportunities, but we didn't come through with the big hit when we did have a chance.
"It is hard to defend two two-run homers. I was concerned about them hitting them out of the park because of the short fences."
The loss ends the careers of five seniors - Wrage, Brent Billerbeck, Dalton Hulme, Clayton Blocker and Joe Kvidera. Billerbeck singled and was by a pitch, while Wrage added two hits. Hulme singled and scored in the sixth as well. Freshman Caden Stuart also had two hits for the Redhawks.
"We are going to miss five good seniors," Kopriva said. "They have averaged over 25 wins per year in their careers."
Wrage faced off against Freese in last year's substate final but earned the win in that one. ... Both coaches thought the key to the game was BGM's ability to get lead-off batters on base. "That was one thing they did a better job this year than we did," Kopriva said. "That was a key to this game. They got the first guy on and we broke down on defense a couple times, too." ... Freese's earned run average rose to 0.88 after the win. He has 122 strikeouts in 104 innings pitched this season. ... Saturday's loss ended North Tama's three-game win streak.