North Mahaska’s baseball team knew what they needed to do Saturday night in order to keep its state tournament trip hopes alive.
A.J. Hibler threw five strong innings and Trent Roose came in and struck out four of the seven batters he faced to help the Warhawks to a 3-2 Class 1A District championship over Cardinal.
The victory will put the Warhawks into a substate final against No. 2-ranked Twin Cedars at Pella Christian Tuesday night. Game time is 7 p.m.
Both teams had gone eight inning games to reach the district final. North Mahaska was playing its third game at Montezuma in the past week and its fourth this season.
Hibler came up a game-opening single to his mound opposition Dakota Showman. Two ground balls and a flyout ended the challenge. With two outs in the bottom of the first, North Mahaska’s Zach Anderson earned a base on balls. Brock Pollpeter and Taylor Legvold each reached on an error. Legvold’s effort brought home Anderson for the early 1-0 lead.
Connor Hehli’s leadoff double in the fourth led to a score on a wild pitch. Hehli duplicated his effort with a double in the sixth, moved to third on a ground out then scored on another Comet error.
Hibler scattered three walks and five hits, two of the hits coming in the top of the sixth inning.
“The story of the game was A.J. Hibler,” said North Mahaska coach Kevin Kelderman. “We knew Trent could only pitch three innings. A.J. did a great job giving us five. We wanted to go as long as we could and hopefully we could use Trent.
“That was the key to the ball game, A.J. He threw well and Trent came in and did what Trent does.”
North Mahaska (24-8) had a chance to break the game open in the fifth when Roose and Anderson hit back-to-back singles. Pollpeter reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases. Taylor Legvold hit the ball to short and the Comets were able to turn the double to get out of the inning.
“The double play was obviously the key to stopping that rally,” said Kelderman. “I thought briefly about a squeeze. We had bases loaded and Taylor is a contact guy. The odds of turning two in high school baseball don’t happen very often, but they twisted it up the middle. But you hope you are in it the next day and we are.”
Showman took the mound loss, but helped himself with the bat going 3-for-3 including a double.
Hibler felt the play behind him aided in his ability to work the planned five innings.
“Game plan was to get as many people out as we could and let the team do the rest,” said Hibler. “If I could get through five innings then let Trent do the rest.
“I always have good defense. Everybody backs you up. You have to do what you have to do, and let them do what they have to do.”
Kelderman said his team certainly had an advantage playing the game in Montezuma.
“We are comfortable here,” said Kelderman. “It is a conference diamond and we have played pretty well here over the years. I think that was an advantage for us and we played pretty well tonight.
“We scored some runs on some really weird plays. It wasn’t that we hit the ball really hard. You just take what you can get.”