EMMETSBURG, Iowa - Dan Wendel contemplated his pre-game dilemma Saturday on the bus ride from Alta to Emmetsburg, Iowa.
Which senior pitcher - Austin Delp or Jaden Holton - should he start on the mound against North Union in the Iowa Class 2A, District 2 baseball championship game?
Wendel opted for Delp and the right-hander fired a three-hit complete-game gem, while No. 3 batter Neil Marshall added two RBIs to his team-leading total to guide the Alta/Aurelia Warriors to a 5-1 playoff victory over the North Union Warriors.
RACE TO FIRST — North Union first baseman Brett Thackery awaits the throw as Alta/Aurelia batter A.J. Lange hustles down the line during Iowa Class 2A, District 2 baseball playoff action Saturday night in Emmetsburg, Iowa. Photo by Dave Schwartz/Estherville Daily News
"I hesitated with what direction I wanted to go," said Wendel. The Alta/Aurelia coach had to decide between Delp - who had compiled a 4-4 record and 2.24 ERA via 46 strikeouts - and Holton, who featured similar pitching stats with a 5-3 record, 2.06 ERA and 45 strikeouts.
"He (Delp) really stepped up tonight and pitched a heckuva ballgame for us," said Wendel. "North Union's a great team, and we feel fortunate to win tonight."
Alta/Aurelia (22-10) advances to face Western Christian, Hull at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Spencer for the Sub-state 1 championship. Western Christian edged Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley, 4-3, for the District 1 crown.
North Union mentor Chad Slagle's lineup ended its successful summer season with a 26-7 record.
"We just couldn't get our bats going tonight," said Slagle, whose team entered the sub-district finale with a .300 batting clip and 196 RBIs.
Indeed. Delp utilized a diving curveball and deceptive fastball to retire the first 16 North Union batters before losing the chance at throwing a rare perfect game by issuing a one-out walk to Brandon Kollasch during the top of the sixth inning.
Unfortunately for Delp, he then lost both his no-hit and shutout bids one out later in the sixth. Brett Deitering reached on Alta/Aurelia's only error of the game before Evan Hagebock smacked an infield hit off the third-base bag to load the bases.
Sawyer Doocy drilled an RBI single to left to plate pinch runner Zach Ditsworth to slice North Union's deficit to 4-1, but Delp got a pivotal groundout to maintain his team's three-run margin.
"(Third baseman) Neil Marshall made a nice defensive play to get us out of that (bases-loaded) situation in the sixth," said Wendel.
Marshall also delivered two key RBIs from an offensive perspective to stake Alta/Aurelia to a 3-0 lead during the bottom of the third inning.
Holton was hit by a Doocy offering with one out, Jalen Henningsen cranked a double down the third-base line and both Holton and Henningsen scored on Marshall's single en route to RBIs No. 41 and 42. Marshall, who later stole second base, scored on A.J. Lange's RBI single to right.
Holton later singled home James Curbow, who was plunked by a pitch with two out in the home half of the fourth, for a 4-0 lead.
Alta/Aurelia later manufactured a run via Jayson VanHaaften's single and later, a wild pitch.
Holton went 2-for-3 with one RBI to top A/A's seven-hit effort, while Alex Deitering added a seventh-inning infield hit for North Union.
Delp gave up one unearned run on three hits, struck out eight and walked two in seven innings of work to earn the win.
Doocy allowed five runs - four earned - on seven hits, fanned five, walked three and hit two batters in 5 1/3 innings.
Brett Thackery worked the final 2/3s of an inning for North Union.
NU 000 001 0 - 1 3 1
AA 003 101 x - 5 7 1
Sawyer Doocy (LP), Brett Thackery (6) and Jake Adams. Austin Delp (WP) and Alex Stephan.
LOB-North Union 5; Alta/Aurelia 6. 2B-Jalen Henningsen (AA).