—by Todd Thorson

(tthorson@storycityherald.com)

As the Herald went to press last night (Tuesday), the Roland-Story boys were one win away from qualifying for the 2A State Tournament, as they were taking on South Central Calhoun in Carroll in the sub-state final. A victory would mean a trip to Principal Park and a spot in the eight-team 2A field. Last week the Norsemen officially broke the school record for wins with their 25th and 26th victories of the season. They breezed past Clarion-Goldfield in the district semifinal 8-1 and then held on for a thrilling 3-2 victory over St. Edmond in the district final. Both contests were played in Story City.

"This team continues to accomplish some pretty great things," said an elated Coach Chris Hill. "They are now one of only two teams in school history to advance to the sub-state."

Sporting a 26-13 record, the Norsemen were set to take on a South Central Calhoun team with an 18-8 mark. St. Edmond finished their fine season with a 17-14 record.

R-S 8, Clarion-Goldfield 1

The Roland-Story boys breezed into the 2A District final with the help of a five-run third inning to down Clarion-Goldfield 8-1 last Tuesday night (July 16) in Story City. After struggling somewhat down the stretch to close out the regular season, the Norsemen had a first round bye in the district and used some of that time off to regroup. The layoff apparently paid off, as the Norse bats came alive against the Cowboys. R-S punched out 10 hits, while holding C-G to just two hits. Four stolen bases on the night helped the Norse cause as well.

"The guys did a lot of good things in this game," said Hill. "Our mindset going into the game was that we were going to be aggressive and I think they accomplished that. The guys really forced them to make a lot of plays, and we were able to take advantage of some mistakes."

The middle of the R-S lineup did some damage on this night, as the four through six slots had seven of the 10 hits, and accounted for four of the eight runs. Evan Johnson set the tone for the rest of the hitters, posting an impressive 3 for 4 performance at the plate, with two RBIs. Andrew Schlatter and Alex Muhlenburg each had two hits. And Zach Hovick, Cole Birchmier and Colton Finley also had hits for the Norse.

Hovick also went the distance on the mound. And for the fifth start this season, he gave up two hits or less. Zach finished with a two-hitter, allowing no earned runs, striking out six and walking three.

"It is a pretty valuable thing to have a guy that can take the mound like he does and allow his team to compete," stated Hill.

The five-run third, all coming with two outs, put the game away for the Norse. Three straight hits by Johnson, Schlatter and Muhlenburg and two two-base errors by the Cowboys was all the damage the Norse would need. Four of their five runs all came around to score by virtue of those errors.

Roland-Story also posted single runs in the first, fifth and sixth, all while holding C-G to their only run of the game in the fourth.

In the first, Zach Hovick walked, stole second and scored on Johnson’s single to right. The fifth saw Schlatter draw a walk, steal second and eventually score on Birchmier’s single to left field. Zach walked again in the sixth, and scored on another single by Johnson.

The Cowboys ended their season with a 14-17 record.

R-S 3, St. Edmond 2

The Norsemen officially broke the school record for wins against the Gaels of St. Edmond Saturday night (July 20) in Story City, posting their 26th victory against just 13 losses. They managed to hold off a tough Gael outfit 3-2 despite some rather tense and nervous moments down the stretch. The win was for the 2A District 4 title, and moved the Norse into the sub-state final opposite South Central Calhoun.

Roland-Story scored all three of their runs in the top of the sixth after trailing 1-0 through five innings of play. "Hits were hard to come by tonight, but the guys did a great job of stringing them together in the sixth," Hill said.

The sixth began when Alex Urbanek led off with a single and went to second when Zach Hovick reached on an error. Alex then stole third and tied the game at 1-1 on Tyler Hovick’s sacrifice fly to center. Zach would score the go-ahead run on Evan Johnson’s single up the middle. Evan would later score the all-important third run following a wild pitch and Andrew Schlatter’s single to right.

The Norsemen’s 3-1 lead seemed precarious at best, however, as the Gaels still had two final at-bats, which really put the pressure on the R-S defense.

In the bottom of the sixth, St. Edmond had two men on with one out and could not score. After the Norse had a scoring chance of their own go awry in the top of the seventh, the Gaels put together one final push in their final at-bat in the bottom of the inning.

A lead off single, a walk and another single scored the second run of the game for St. Edmond, cutting the lead to 3-2 in the process. Following another single, which loaded the bases with one out, a huge force out at home, pitcher Zach Hovick to catcher Tyler Hovick, put the Norse one out away from the district title.

The final out would come on a sharp grounder to shortstop Cole Birchmier, who quickly threw to second base to just get the runner for the last out. The celebration quickly ensued on the field, as the Norse were heading to the sub-state final for only the second time in school history!

"Great defense and pitching allowed us to stay in our type of game," an elated Hill commented. "In the seventh, we had some guys really step up and make some great plays. Brody (Concannon) robbed a base hit that allowed a runner on second with one out instead of runners on first and second with no outs. Cole (Birchmier) did a great job of making a heads up play to end the game. If he hesitates at all, the runner would have been safe at second and we would have been looking at a tie ball game."

The Norse finished with only four hits, while St. Edmond collected eight. Evan Johnson, Andrew Schlatter, Alex Urbanek and Alex Muhlenburg had the hits. David Flattery went 3 for 4 to lead St. Edmond. St. Edmond scored first with a run in the third on a single, a sacrifice and another single.

Pitcher Zach Hovick again went the distance, allowing eight hits, two earned runs, one walk and struck out six.

Correction/Clarification

Last week it was reported to the Herald that the 24 wins by the R-S boys was a new school record. It was, in fact, not a school record. After further research and review it was revealed that the 2000 Norsemen baseball team managed to achieve 25 victories, which was the school record. That 2000 team went 25-8 that season and lost to Woodward-Granger 10-7 in the district final. But now, with the 2013 team’s two wins against Clarion-Goldfield and St. Edmond last week, this year’s team now has the new school record all by themselves at 26-13. The Herald apologizes for the oversight, and in no way was intending to overshadow nor forget about that fine 2000 R-S baseball team.

Last State Tournament Appearance

Depending upon last night’s (Tuesday) outcome, the Norsemen baseball team has only gone to the state tournament once in its long school history. And hopefully it will be two times after the R-S boys post a win over South Center Calhoun. It was the year 1992 when Coach Brian Luft’s team finished 21-7 overall and made it to the 3A state semifinals before losing 5-4 to Davenport Assumption in Marshalltown. That year the Norse boys had to win three district games at Iowa Falls and two more sub-state contests at Algona before earning one of four spots in the 3A state field.