Warriors advance past Panthers

ALTA, Iowa – North Union literally manufactured an Iowa Class 1A, District 3 baseball playoff victory on Tuesday night.

The Warriors produced only five hits, but collected 10 bases-on-balls from three St. Mary’s, Storm Lake pitchers and capitalized on five Panther errors to exit the ballpark in Alta, Iowa, with an 11-3 quarterfinal win in hand.

North Union (12-16) advances to face Alta-Aurelia (17-11) at 7 p.m. Thursday night in the District 3 semifinals back in Alta, Iowa. Alta-Aurelia gained the next round via a 12-2, six-inning triumph over Newell-Fonda.

St. Mary’s, Storm Lake ended its season with a 6-14 record.

“Sometimes it’s not real pretty, but you survive and advance. That’s what we did tonight,” said a smiling North Union head coach Chad Slagle.

Trailing 2-0 on the heels of Cole Feltner’s RBI double and Josh Demers’ run-scoring single during St. Mary’s top half of the first, the Warriors ironically generated their initial run the traditional way during the home half of the inning.

Cody Runksmeier drew a leadoff walk from Panthers’ starting pitcher Ryan Peters, reached second on an errant pickoff throw and glided home on Spencer Ricke’s RBI double into the left-field corner.

North Union ace right-hander Colin Runksmeier then settled into a pitching rhythm to keep St. Mary’s off the scoreboard over the ensuing five frames.

“I thought he gave us a quality effort during his first postseason start on the mound,” Slagle said in reference to Colin Runksmeier’s seven-hit pitching performance over six-plus innings.

Down 2-1 and Runksmeier literally in the zone, the Warriors combined Cory Vaske’s single with three walks and two pivotal Panther miscues to manufacture four third-inning runs.

Ricke drew a two-out walk, Vaske lined a single to left and Alex Krantz reached on an error to load the bases for North Union.

Logan Hellman drew a bases-loaded walk before two more Warrior runs crossed the plate when Carter Engelby’s hot shot down the third base line was mishandled. Hellman later scored on a wild pitch for a 5-2 lead.

North Union nearly duplicated its third-inning run production during the fourth, generating three runs via one hit, three walks, one St. Mary’s error and – this time, a sacrifice fly.

Ryan Larson drew a walk from reliever Aaron Miller before courtesy runner Riley Bauer moved to second base when Cody Runksmeier’s grounder to third was cuffed.

Colin Runksmeier and Ricke received back-to-back walks to generate a run before Vaske launched a sacrifice fly. Krantz capped the offensive output by slugging an RBI single to left for an 8-2 edge.

North Union nearly ended the game via the 10-run rule in the last of the sixth, falling just one shy at 11-2.

Colin Runksmeier singled with one out before Ricke and Vaske worked out walks to jam the base paths.

Krantz then delivered an RBI fielder’s choice groundout before pinch hitter Parker Oleson drilled a two-run single to center with two out.

Eric Broich singled, advanced 90 feet on Peters’ single and scored the Panthers’ solo run in the seventh on a Warriors’ error.

Colin Runksmeier allowed three runs – only one earned – on seven hits, struck out seven and walked two in six-plus innings to earn the win for North Union.

Krantz faced only three batters in hurling a perfect inning of relief in the seventh.

Peters gave up five runs – one earned – on two hits, walked five and fanned one in 2 2/3 innings to take the loss for St. Mary’s.

North Union’s Nos. 1-4 batters – Cody Runksmeier, Colin Runksmeier, Ricke and Vaske – combined to work out seven walks, collected three hits and scored eight runs.

Josh Demers and Alex Smith each went 2-for-4 to top the Panthers’ seven-hit attack.

SM 200 000 1 – 3 7 5

NU 104 303 x – 11 5 2

Ryan Peters (LP), Aaron Miller (3), Michael Demers (4) and Eric Broich, Peters (4). Colin Runksmeier (WP), Alex Krantz (7) and Ryan Larson.

LOB-No. Union 5; St. Mary’s 9. 2B-Spencer Ricke (NU), Cole Feltner (SM). SF-Cory Vaske (NU). SAC-Carter Engelby (NU), Peters (SM).