ALTA, Iowa - Alta-Aurelia's chances of advancing to the Iowa Class 1A, District 3 baseball finals looked bleak on Thursday night.
Trailing 4-0, Alta-Aurelia awoke its bats to erupt for five fifth-inning runs behind five hits to engineer an eventual 5-4 district semifinal comeback victory over the North Union Warriors in Alta, Iowa.
Alta-Aurelia (18-11) advances to face Bishop Garrigan at 7 p.m. Saturday night on the Golden Bears' home diamond in Algona, Iowa, for the district championship. Garrigan reached the finals via a 6-4 triumph over West Bend-Mallard.
FACE-FIRST SLIDE — North Union first baseman Spencer Ricke gloves a pickoff attempt and tags an unidentified Alta-Aurelia runner during Iowa Class 1A, District 3 semifinal baseball action Thursday night in Alta, Iowa. The Alta-Aurelia runner just made it back safely to first base on the play. (Photo Courtesy of Rhonda Oleson)
North Union ended its season with a 12-17 record.
No. 9 batter Trenton Delp triggered Alta-Aurelia's fateful fifth frame by legging out an infield hit before North Union starting pitcher Corey Vaske issued back-to-back walks to Ross Friedrich and Bryce Radke.
Josh McCormick, Alta-Aurelia's only player batting over the .300 mark (.382), singled to right to plate the home team's initial run with no outs.
Jaden Van Berkum then drilled a two-run double to left to whittle Alta-Aurelia's deficit to 4-3 before teammate Jordan Wendel's fielder's choice groundout plated McCormick with the tying run.
Van Berkum, who had advanced to third base on Wendel's groundout, then scored the go-ahead run on Mitchell Fritz's third hit of the game - an RBI single to left. Ironically, Fritz entered the postseason game with a modest .253 batting average.
North Union mentor Chad Slagle opted to bring Alex Krantz to the mound, and Krantz worked out the inning without allowing any runs.
Unfortunately for North Union, Alta-Aurelia starting pitcher Bryce Radke allowed only a two-out single to Cody Runksmeier in the top of the sixth inning before stranding the tying run at third during the seventh.
Spencer Ricke drew a leadoff walk during North Union's seventh before pinch runner Eythan Blair advanced to second base on a wild pitch.
Vaske then executed a sacrifice bunt to move Blair to third, but Radke got a groundout to the left side of the infield to hold Blair at the hot corner.
Pinch hitter Parker Oleson worked out a two-out walk for North Union, but Radke got an infield popout to seal the one-run victory.
North Union built its 4-0 lead by plating solo runs in the second and third innings before netting two more runs in the fourth.
Krantz drilled a leadoff double in the second, advanced to third on Logan Hellman's sacrifice bunt and crossed the plate on Carter Engelby's RBI single to right.
Colin Runksmeier, who went 3-for-4, set the table for North Union in the top of the third by singling before moving to second on Ricke's sacrifice bunt that did not produce an out. Runksmeier advanced 90 more feet on Vaske's sacrifice bunt before scoring on a wild pitch for a 2-0 lead.
Colin Runksmeier then doubled North Union's margin by delivering a two-run double to the right-center gap in the fourth. Braden Ortman, who had walked, and Cody Runksmeier, who was plunked by a pitch, scored on the extra-base hit.
Ortman added a double to North Union's seven-hit effort.
Radke gave up four runs - three earned - on seven hits, struck out six, walked three and hit one batter in seven innings of work to earn the complete-game victory for Alta-Aurelia.
Vaske allowed five earned runs on eight hits, walked four and struck out one in 4 1/3 innings to take the loss for North Union.
Krantz gave up one hit and issued one walk in 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.
NU 011 200 0 - 4 7 0
AA 000 050 x - 5 9 2
Corey Vaske (LP), Alex Krantz (5) and Ryan Larson. Bryce Radke (WP) and Jordan Wendel.
LOB-North Union 8; Alta-Aurelia 8. 2B-Colin Runksmeier (NU), Krantz (NU), Braden Ortman (NU), Jaden Van Berkum (AA). SAC-Vaske (NU) 2, Spencer Ricke (NU), Logan Hellman (NU), Radke (AA).