Kuemper completes Cyclone sweep

HCHS baseball team unable to overcome early 5-0 hole, now 4-7 in H-10

 HARLAN (June 17) -- Cal Wanninger’s three-run homer in the top of the seventh gave Kuemper Catholic the insurance it would need to hold off Harlan Community 9-6 Thursday night in Hawkeye Ten baseball action at Jim Goeser Field.
 The Cyclones trailed 5-0 before scoring three runs in the third and were down 9-3 when they put up another three-spot in the bottom of the seventh.
 It wasn’t enough, though, to prevent the Knights from sweeping the season series and improving to 10-4 overall and 8-3 in conference play. Harlan, which lost for the fourth time in five games, dropped to 5-9 overall and 4-7 in the H-10.
 “You can’t really spot people [five-run] leads. We did a heck of a job battling and fighting back into it after we gave them some runs, but we need to start commanding the zone from the first pitch,” said HCHS head coach Heath Stein. “The snowball effect only happened in two innings, but it was enough early on for us to be in a pretty decent hole and have to work our butts off to get back into it.”
 The Cyclones outhit Kuemper 7-6 on the night but were hurt by four errors in the field and another on the base paths. Early walks also played a role in the Knights scoring two first-inning runs and three more in the third.
 HCHS freshman starting pitcher Franz Reisz (0-3) finished with a line of five innings, three hits, five runs (three earned), three walks and five strikeouts. He did his best work in the fifth, capping his outing with an encouraging five-pitch frame that included two pop flies and a three-pitch strikeout with two excellent changeups.
 Stein said he “definitely” saw some progress in Reisz’s fourth start of the season.
 “He ran his pitch count up kind of early in those jams but he was throwing a couple good breaking balls and a couple really good changeups and he started pounding the zone better with his fastball as the game went on,” Stein said.
 “We’re not going to make any youth excuses anymore, but he’s a young pitcher that goes out there and if he struggles a little bit he tries harder, and that kind of hinders him I think... He’s learning. That last five-pitch inning was [against] the middle of (Kuemper’s) lineup... (Those were) really, really good pitches, so it’s in there. He just has to keep working and I think he could be pretty good someday.”
 The Cyclones’ three-run third got them back in the game as Joey Moser singled and later scored on a wild pitch, Luke Musich doubled home Isaiah Ahrenholtz and then scored himself on a balk.
 The score would remain 5-3 until Kuemper plated an unearned run in the top of the sixth off Cyclone reliever Quinn Koesters.
 One inning later, a single by Blake Pottebaum and an Austin Tigges walk set up Wanninger’s long home run to center field.
 HCHS did not quit as four of its first five batters reached safely in the bottom of the seventh against Pottebaum, who followed up three scoreless innings by Nate Heinrichs. An RBI single by Ahrenholtz, a Musich RBI ground out and a run-scoring wild pitch made it 9-6 before Pottebaum was able to retire the last two batters and close things out.
 Ahrenholtz went 3-for-3 with two runs scored to lead the Cyclones while Musich was 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI.
 Blake Pottebaum finished 3-for-4 with two doubles, three runs and two RBI for Kuemper. Wanninger scored twice and drove in four.
 The Cyclones will continue striving to gain positive momentum this week as they play five varsity games in four days, starting with Monday’s home doubleheader vs. Red Oak. HCHS will host 9th-ranked (4A) Lewis Central on Tuesday night, then play at Sioux City East Wednesday and Atlantic on Thursday.
 Stein noted that HCHS will start stringing together a few wins when its starting pitching improves.
 “When we get good starting pitching we play pretty dang good defense,” he said. “I think we’re coming a long ways in the (batter’s) box, but the consistency on the mound throughout the whole staff is something that we definitely need to work on.
 “The whole staff is going to get used, obviously, in a long week like (this). It’s just going to give more guys opportunities to go out there and work on what they’re doing and hopefully continue to progress.”
 Stein added that the coaching staff is evaluating the players and team as a whole on a week-to-week basis with an eye toward the start of Class 3A substate play July 16.
 “I really think that as a whole... we’re making progress. It’s just everything needs to kind of flow together,” he said. “Some nights we hit really well, some nights we pitch it really well, sometimes all of it shows up. It’s just kind of working on every aspect of the game trying to improve them all. Four weeks from now, we are what we are and we’ll see what happens.”

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