—by Todd Thorson

(tthorson@storycityherald.com)

The Norsemen boys have struggled somewhat down the stretch, as they closed out their regular season by dropping two of three to finish with a 24-13 record. The Norse have been staying competitive and close through a series of losses, but seem to be coming up just a bit short of achieving the victory.

South Hamilton handed an extra inning loss to the Norsemen in Story City last Monday night (July 8) in the HOIAC finale. The following night (Tuesday, July 9) the Norse traveled to St. Mary’s to face off against the highly ranked and defending state champion Martensdale St. Mary’s Blue Devils. A slugfest ensued, as the Norsemen fell three runs short at 10-7. On Senior Night in Story City Friday night (July 12), the R-S boys got back on track by defeating Grundy Center 7-2.

After achieving a #4 ranking in Class 2A just a few short weeks ago, the Norse are currently ranked 6th, having lost 7 of 11 since the end of June. The quality of the competition has not been anything to sneeze at, however, as Coach Chris Hill has still seen many positives even when the Norse are on the losing end of the score.

"We seem to be falling on the losing side of close games (lately)," said Coach Hill following the South Hamilton loss. "These types of games are very valuable to a team as you head into districts. We just need to make sure we are taking care of things that get us on the winning side of those games."

The Norsemen were set to face Clarion-Goldfield last night (Tuesday) in Story City in the 2A District 4 semifinal. Ogden took on St. Edmond in the first game Tuesday, also in Story City. The winners will play Saturday night (July 20) in Story City at 7 p.m. In the District openers Clarion-Goldfield defeated South Hamilton last Saturday in Story City 4-1, while St. Edmond slipped past Eagle Grove 7-6, also in Story City.

South Hamilton 3, R-S 1 (9 inn.)

It took nine innings last Monday night (July 8), but when all was said and done, South Hamilton had defeated the home team 3-1 in front of a large contingency of Norsemen and Hawk fans. The Norsemen held a slim 1-0 lead after four innings, only to see SH tie the score at 1-1 with a run in the top of the seventh. A scoreless eighth led to a two-run ninth for the visitors, and thus sending them back to Jewell with the 3-1 victory.

The Norsemen scored their only run of the game in the fourth when Colton Finley walked. His pinch runner Charlie Steenhagen went to second on an error by the pitcher, and then Charlie stole third. Andrew Schlatter’s sacrifice fly to center brought in Steenhagen. The only other major scoring threat for the Norse came in the first inning when a couple of hits, a walk, a hit batsman and an error failed to produce any runs.

South Hamilton’s run in the seventh that tied the game came as a result of a hit, a walk and a two-base error on the shortstop. The Hawks’ two-run ninth was made possible by three hits, a couple of passed balls and a walk and a groundout. The Norse put the tying runs on with no outs in the bottom of the ninth, but a strikeout, fly out and ground out ended the threat.

Evan Johnson and Colton Finley did the pitching for the Norsemen. Evan went 6 2/3 innings and allowed no earned runs and struck out six in delivering a fine pitching performance. Colton finished the final 2 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs, three walks and struck out three.

Tyler Hovick and Andrew Schlatter each had two hits to lead the Norsemen’s six-hit performance.

M. St. Mary’s 10, R-S 7

A five-run third enabled the home team, Martensdale-St. Mary’s, to hold the upper hand as the Blue Devils defeated the R-S boys 10-7 Tuesday night (July 9) at St. Mary’s. The Norse out hit the home team 9-8, but couldn’t keep the Blue Devils from having that one big inning. The Norse assumed an early 2-0 lead in the first inning before the tide began to turn.

R-S came right back, however, tying the score at 5-5 with three of their own in the top of the fourth. But MSTM put the game away with a three-run fifth and added two more in the sixth before the Norse scored two runs in the seventh to complete the game’s scoring.

Alex Urbanek, Tyler Hovick and Alex Muhlenburg all had two hits for the Norse. Alex also scored two runs.

"It continues to be hard to find positives in these losses," stated Hill, "but they are there. In this game we showed that we can put some runs on the board and try to slug out a game against a quality team. It is not our style, but it is valuable for the guys to see that they can put up runs in bulk against a good team."

The Norsemen used four pitchers in the contest – Colton Finley, Riley Ellis, Zach Hovick and Alex Urbanek.

In the first, Tyler Hovick singled and scored on a passed ball. Alex Muhlenburg also singled and eventually scored on Andrew Schlatter’s single to right. The three-run fourth that tied the game at the time came courtesy of a big two-run home run by Riley Ellis over the left field fence. Urbanek had singled ahead of Riley. Cole Birchmier would later score the tying run after being hit by a pitch, stealing second and coming home on Tyler Hovick’s single through the right side.

The Norse tried to come from five runs down in the seventh, scoring two runs, but it wasn’t enough. Muhlenburg walked with one out, went to second when Zach Hovick was hit by a pitch. Alex would score on a two-base error on the pitcher following Evan Johnson’s come-backer to the mound. A ground out by Schlatter plated Tyler for the final R-S run.

R-S 7, Grundy Center 2

The Norsemen saved the best for last on Senior Night last Friday night (July 12) in Story City. The R-S boys’ baseball team honored five seniors before their final regular season game – Charlie Steenhagen, Evan Johnson, Riley Ellis, Colton Finley and Brody Concannon. The Norsemen also managed to pull to within one win of the single-season school record for victories by posting their 24th win over a Grundy Center outfit, 7-2.

"It’s always nice to get a win on Senior Night," commented Coach Hill. "The guys made the night even better by (nearly) breaking the school record for wins with 24. These guys have accomplished a lot this year. Hopefully we are able to add to these accomplishments as we start districts."

The Norse trailed 1-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning. But a six-run outburst suddenly spotted the home team a 6-1 advantage, and they held on from there. Each team scored a run in the sixth to close out the scoring.

The Norsemen had only three hits, while GC managed four. The hits came off the bats of Evan Johnson, Riley Ellis and Cole Birchmier. The six-run fifth was aided by six walks, two errors, two wild pitches and a passed ball. The final run for the Norsemen came in the sixth when Ellis drew a bases loaded walk, scoring Alex Urbanek, who had started off the inning by getting hit by a pitch.

Zach Hovick and Evan Johnson provided the pitching duties for Roland-Story. Zach went six innings, allowing one earned run and struck out seven. Evan pitched the final frame and allowed no runs and struck out a batter.

Grundy Center’s eighth grade pitcher kept the Norsemen off balance with his off-speed "stuff" throughout the early part of the game. His lobs to home plate created timing problems for the R-S batters. Fortunately for the Norsemen the Spartans and their pitching had problems of their own in the fifth.