Hulme comes through on mound, at plate in North Tama’s comeback win
TRAER — Better late than never, they say.
The North Tama baseball team put that idiom to the test, whether it wanted to or not, and rallied past Central City for a 3-2 victory in Saturday’s Class 1A District 9 quarterfinals at J.L. Lister Field.
Hale Hulme hammered a two-out double to left field to drive in the tying and go-ahead runs in the bottom of the seventh inning, giving the Redhawks a walk-off win and advancement into Tuesday’s district semifinals.
The Redhawks (20-9) will face Belle Plaine (16-6), a 10-0 winner over GMG in the first of Saturday’s two games in Traer, at 5 p.m. Tuesday in Alburnett.
Central City (10-23) had played the role of spoiler to a ‘T’ up until North Tama’s last at-bat. The Wildcats scored twice in the top of the third inning thanks to three walks from Redhawk starting left-hander Ryan McLean and a two-run single by TJ Avery that welcomed Hulme into the ballgame.
Hulme inherited the bases loaded and a 2-0 count before North Tama head coach Dan Kopriva emerged from the dugout to reel in McLean to keep him under 65 pitches so that he can return to the mound on Tuesday night. The execution didn’t exactly match the gameplan, but it got the job done just the same.
“District play never works out how you want it to,” said Kopriva, “but it did in an odd way. [McLean] ran into trouble, walked three in a row and jumped up 2-0 and we just can’t give this team free passes. That’s one thing I’m big on. I had to make a switch there and now Ryan’s under 65 (pitches) so he’s good.”
Walks were about the only thing Central City had working for it, but for 4 1/2 innings that was enough. North Tama had just two hits before putting two together in the bottom of the fifth. Luke Pennell hit a leadoff double, Tyler Morrison walked two outs later, and Hulme hit a ground ball through the left side for a run-scoring single.
That was the first ground ball the Redhawks had hit aside from McLean’s swinging bunt in the fourth against Central City starting pitcher Nile Coghlan, who was taken out after Hulme’s hit in favor of Wezley Luedeman. Luedeman retired the first five batters he faced, including a strikeout of Pennell to start the seventh, but hit Parker Hulme to start the Redhawks’ rally for them.
Cael Even was supposed to bunt Parker over to second, but couldn’t get the job done and instead put two runners on with an infield single to set the table for the top of the North Tama lineup.
“The biggest play in the world was Cael missing that bunt and then getting a base hit and then we win the game,” said Kopriva. “That was the one time everything worked out. I’m always disappointed when they don’t get a bunt down because that was Cael’s job, but he comes up with the infield hit, we move runners over and … big hit, big hit. It worked out for us.”
Tyler Morrison grounded out to second, pushing both baserunners into scoring position, and Hale hammered a 1-1 fastball over the left fielder’s head for the walk-off winner.
“[Kopriva] came over to me and said ‘do you want to swing right away or take first pitch,’ and I said ‘swing right away’ and that’s that,” said Hale, a senior. “It was a fastball, just a little up. I wanted [the pitch before it] but I decided to wait for a better one and go after that one. I was very nerve-wracking to do that.
“I was excited to go in there and show off my skills I guess. It’s something people live for and I went out there and did it.”
Hulme stood tall on this night, pitching 4 2/3 innings of scoreless relief and allowing only two singles and two walks while striking out six. It was his most significant pitching appearance since June 14 due to shoulder soreness, and easily the biggest spot of the season for the Redhawks.
“I was about 50-50, I was hoping and I had 50 percent confidence,” Kopriva said of having Hulme come up to bat with two outs and the game on the line. “He took a good 1-0 pitch on the corner and got a better pitch and drove it. He’s been clutch.
“He maybe hasn’t been hitting as well as he had, but boy in clutch situations I want Hale Hulme up there, and clutch on the mound, I want Hale Hulme out there. He’s been doing that four years for me.”
Hulme was the only player in the game with more than one hit. McLean had a two-out double in the second that nearly scored Skyler Staker all the way from first base, but Central City’s relay throw home was in time to tag him out.
Tate Payne singled and stole second base in the fourth inning but got no closer to the plate.
North Tama overcame a combined six walks issued by McLean (four) and Hulme (two) as the duo held the Wildcats to just two singles and chalked up 10 strikeouts.
Coghlan and Luedeman (0-3) walked a total of five and struck out four.
North Tama 3, Central City 2
CC 002 000 0 — 2 2 0
NT 000 010 x — 3 6 2
Nile Coghlan, Wezley Luedeman (5) and Wyatt Starry; Ryan McLean, Hale Hulme (3) and Luke Pennell. W–Hulme (2-1). L–Luedeman (0-3). 2B–NT: Hulme, McLean, Pennell. LOB–CC 6, NT 6.