North Union fights to extra innings in baseball quarterfinal

SAFE! — North Union baserunner Braden Pierce (23) slides in safely as the throw is dropped at the plate in the seventh inning. Pierce scored the game-tieing run of the Iowa Class 2A District 3 playoff baseball quarterfinal matchup. Clarion-Goldfield-Dows pitcher Tyler Stein (3) and catcher Cael Chase (left) watch as Pierce slides in. (Photo by Kyle McAreavy)

GARNER, IOWA — Down to their final strike, the North Union Warriors didn’t give in, they fought back.

But the comeback proved not enough.

The Clarion-Goldfield-Dows Cowboys scored five runs in the top of the ninth inning to take a 12-7 win in the quarterfinal round of the Iowa Class 2A District 3 baseball playoffs.

With the win, CGD (2-12) moves on to face top-seeded Pocahontas Area (14-1) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Pocahontas Area high school.

North Union ended its season with a record of 1-9.

The Cowboys entered the top of the seventh leading 3-2, then both teams started taking advantage of the other’s mistakes.

Preston Gardner started the inning working a seven-pitch walk, then Tyler Stein sent the first pitch of his at-bat into right field to put runners on first and second for CGD.

After a pitching change, the Cowboys’ Mateo Martinez doubled to right-center for two RBIs.

He then stole third and an error allowed him to trot home.

A Cael Chase single and a Nevan Foss walk put two on for Caleb Kruger, who sent a double down the left field line for an RBI and the Cowboys’ fourth run of the frame.

Down five going into the bottom of the seventh, the Warriors kept fighting.

“Baseball is a game of momentum,” Warrior head coach Royce Byrnes said. “We haven’t won as many games as we would like this year and it can be hard to get those bright spots. It was fun to see the dugout and watch everyone get excited. … I told the guys, it would have been really easy to just pack it in and say, ‘lets just get on the bus and go home,’ but they didn’t. They’re a resilient bunch. I’m really proud of their performance today.”

Carter Morphew started the Warriors’ half of the seventh by reaching base on an error, then Kegan Boland did the same to put runners on first and second with nobody out.

Both Carter Morphew and Boland’s courtesy runner, Luke Schmidt, took off for a hit-and-run with Noah Morphew at bat.

Noah Morphew sent a hard ground ball past the Cowboys’ second baseman, who had started moving toward second, into right field scoring both runners as Noah Morphew took second on the throw in.

Morphew was caught stealing on a close play at third, then Brendan Anderson got the rally restarted, reaching on the Cowboys’ third error of the inning.

Jay Heinan took advantage of the fourth error, putting runners on first and second for Braden Pierce, who singled to short center field for an RBI, putting the Warriors down only two runs.

After a groundout and a walk, Robert Ortman came to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded. Down to the Warriors’ final strike, Ortman didn’t give in.

Ortman worked to a 2-2 count and fouled off another pitch before driving a single through the left side of the infield, scoring two runs and tying the matchup at 7.

The Warriors had a chance to score the game-ending run in the eighth.

Noah Morphew singled, Anderson singled and Heinan was hit by a pitch to load the bases with only one out.

But a flyout to short left field, too short for a sacrifice fly, and a strikeout ended the frame without the winning run crossing the plate.

The Cowboys then put together two doubles, three singles and a walk to score five more runs and go ahead 12-7 heading into the bottom of the ninth.

The Warriors had two batters reach base on walks, but couldn’t repeat their seventh-inning performance to tie the matchup again.

“It comes back to all the little things,” Byrnes said. “… gotta give credit to them (Cowboys) for what they did in the ninth. They hit a couple balls probably 370 feet and they were hitting everything on the lines, not much we could do there.”

North Union built a two-run lead in the first two innings.

In the first frame, Anderson and Heinan singled, then Pierce singled through the left side of the infield for an RBI.

In the second, Boland doubled down the right field line and his courtesy runner, Schmidt, scored on a Noah Morphew single slapped over the Cowboys’ shortstop’s head.

The Cowboys began to fight back in the fourth.

Martinez singled to start the inning, then stole second before Kruger singled to score him and cut the Warriors’ lead in half.

In the next inning, it was the Cowboys turn to take advantage of Warrior mistakes, taking the lead in the process.

Bryce Allen was hit by a pitch to start the inning, then Garnder reached base on an error, made on an opportunity for a double play.

North Union starter Noah Morphew struck the next batter out and looked to get out of the inning, but another Warrior error allowed Reed Abbas to reach and load the bases for the middle of the Cowboy lineup.

Martinez hit a ground ball in the infield and the throw went to the plate, but it hit off Allen’s back as he was running home and every runner was safe, leaving Cael Chase to send a fly ball to center field.

Warrior center fielder Anderson made a full superman diving catch, but couldn’t stop Garnder from scoring on the sacrifice fly, giving the Cowboys the 3-2 lead they would take into the seventh inning.

Noah Morphew pitched an outstanding game for the Warriors, throwing 110 pitches over 6 1/3 innings. Morphew allowed five runs — three earned – on three hits, two walks and a hit batter, while he struck out 12, including five of the first seven batters he faced.

Pierce came on to pitch the final 2 2/3 and allowed seven runs ­on nine hits and two walks, while striking out three.

Kruger pitched the first 6 1/3 innings for the Cowboys, allowing four runs on seven hits and two walks, while striking out three.

Stein then pitched 2 1/3 and allowed three runs on four hits, three walks and a hit batter.

Kruger came back on for the final out, throwing one pitch to get a flyout and totaling 6 2/3 innings on the day.

CGD 000 120 405 – 12 12 6

NU 110 000 500 – 7 11 4

Caleb Kruger, Tyler Stein (7, WP), Kruger (9) and Cael Chase.

Noah Morphew, Braden Pierce (7, LP) and Kegan Boland.

LOB–CGD 9, NU 10. 2B–Mateo Martinez (CGD), Caleb Kruger (CGD), Cael Chase (CGD), Nevan Foss (CGD), Kegan Boland (NU). SF–Cael Chase (CGD).


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