Crusaders hand HCHS baseball team second loss

 HARLAN (May 28) -- Searching for any kind of good fortune to keep the seventh inning alive here Friday night, Harlan Community instead had its potential rally extinguished by an unfavorable call on the field.
 The final result was a 5-1 loss to Sioux City Bishop Heelan and an 0-2 start to the baseball season.
 HCHS managed just five hits in the game while committing four errors and five balks, issuing five walks and also hitting four batters.
 Heelan, now 5-0, took a 3-0 lead after two innings and scored two insurance runs in the top of the seventh on Kaleb Gengler’s sacrifice fly and an errant throw that allowed a second run to cross the plate.
 The Cyclones tried to make some noise in the home half of the frame when Stephen Leinen and Joey Moser drew walks against Heelan reliever Grant Hegarty.
 With two on and two out, Hegarty struck out Cade Sears on a pitch that briefly got away from catcher Bryce Harpenau. As Sears hustled to first, Harpenau’s throw got past first baseman Ian Gill and Leinen sprinted home. However, the home plate umpire ruled that Sears was running too far inside the foul line and ended the game with his call of runner’s interference.
 HCHS head coach Heath Stein argued the call, but to no avail.
 “(The umpire) said that (Sears) was three foot inside of the running lane and he would make that call to end the state title game. He was that 100 percent sure on it,” said Stein. “I respectfully disagree.”
 Stein said he would have loved seeing senior Isaiah Ahrenholtz have a chance to continue the game as the tying run at the plate.
 “High-pressure situation with arguably our best hitter up and a shot to keep the ball game moving, at least, or to potentially tie it up because Isaiah has power enough to hit it out,” he said.
 HCHS trailed the entire way after Bishop Heelan opened the game with one run in the first and two in the second.
 Crusader leadoff batter Brayden Pratt was hit-by-pitch to start the night and later scored on the first of four balks called on Cyclone freshman starter Franz Reisz.
 Heelan added two unearned runs in the second, which began with a Jackson Freebern single and also included another balk, a hit batter and two Cyclone errors.
 Reisz (0-1) settled down the rest of his outing and made it through five innings, allowing three hits and one earned run. He walked one batter, hit two and struck out four.
 Freshman Quinn Koesters pitched the final two innings and allowed two runs (one earned). He walked four, hit two batters and also struck out four. Heelan’s two-run seventh was set up by a hit batsman and two base-on-balls.
 The Crusaders won despite having just three hits - all singles.
 “You could tell that we had freshmen on the mound with those balks and (other) moments,” Stein said. “Home opener and big spots and kids get anxious because they’re freshmen and they’ve never really been out here in this spot. But that being said, they pitched out of a lot of jams. They made big pitches when they needed to, we made plays on defense when we needed to. Benny Muenchrath’s catch in center was huge, doubling (Sean Schaefer) off [second base]. It’s just learning. It’s just what it’s going to be and hopefully down the stretch when they’re in those situations again they’re fine.”
 Offensively, HCHS struggled to string together much against Crusader freshman pitcher Jaron Bleeker, who allowed five hits and one run in five and two-thirds. He walked just one, hit a batter and struck out seven.
 Bleeker (1-0) escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third by striking out Ahrenholtz looking and did not allow a hit beyond the infield dirt until Luke Musich’s RBI single plated Ahrenholtz in the sixth to break up the shutout.
 Ben Muenchrath went 2-for-3 for the Cyclones, beating out an infield single in the third and a bunt single in the fifth. Moser and Sears also had infield hits.
 “We didn’t square up too many balls, and that freshman kid [Bleeker] was pretty decent,” Stein said. “He could flip a breaking ball in there on 2-2 counts and he was fairly unpredictable, and when we got pitches to hit we seemed like we fouled them off. We had some of our best hitters up in spots with guys on base and we just didn’t get the [big] hit tonight.”
 The Cyclones will play four games in three days this week, starting with Tuesday’s varsity doubleheader vs. Creston at Jim Goeser Field. Wednesday’s game at Lewis Central has been moved to Iowa Western Community College and will start with a junior varsity contest at 4:00 p.m. HCHS will play at Denison Thursday night.
 “There’s going to be a lot of growth. Obviously there’s a lot of youth so that’s expected,” Stein said of the team’s 0-2 start.
 “We just need to continue working hard and getting better as it goes on. The 0-2 record doesn’t tell a lot of the tale, I’d say. We came out on the wrong end of both of them, but there’s been a lot of positives in my mind, whether with pitching (Friday) or with hitting/offense (Monday) night.”

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