Walks tell the tale as Cyclones, Stars split twin bill

HCHS wins 16-1 after ugly 16-9 loss

 HARLAN (June 7) -- The game of baseball is just so much simpler when you’re throwing strikes.
 Harlan Community and Sioux City North were on both sides of that coin Monday night in a doubleheader split at Jim Goeser Field.
 The Stars took advantage of 14 walks in a game one featuring five lead changes, scoring the final nine runs to win 16-9.
 The Cyclones won game two 16-1 in just four innings, utilizing seven free passes (five walks, two hit-by-pitch) in an eight-run first inning to take control. HCHS sophomore Teagon Kasperbauer pitched all four innings, issuing only one walk to improve his record to 2-1.
 “It’s amazing what happens when a guy sets the tone on the mound,” said Harlan head coach Heath Stein.
 “Teagon [had] another outstanding effort. He’s not fancy. It’s just locating fastballs where he wants them, getting early contact and then our defense plays so much better behind him.”
 Kasperbauer averaged just 11 pitches per inning and made North look more like the team that left town with a 2-11 overall record. He allowed just three hits and one unearned run while striking out three. He lost his shutout in the fourth on Austin McClain’s two-out RBI double.
 The Cyclones (3-5) also showcased an improved approach at the plate in game two, taking their walks early and later jumping on some good pitches to hit. They scored eight first-inning runs on just two hits - a three-run triple by Cade Sears and a two-run single by Quinn Koesters. Prior to the game the two freshmen switched spots in the batting order, Sears hitting ninth and Koesters moving up to the two hole.
 “Little change of pace, little change of approach, maybe a little wake-up call,” Stein said. “Cade Sears played a nice game (two) - more energy, a little more effort I would say... and hopefully it gets him going.”
 After seeing his own pitching staff walk 14 batters in two straight games going back to last Thursday, Stein was pleased to be on the positive end of the free passes during Monday’s game two.
 With one out in the first, Koesters and Isaiah Ahrenholtz both drew walks and Luke Musich and Austin Schumacher were both hit-by-pitch, making it 1-0 and chasing North starter Eric Rasmussen.
 Reliever Steven Kling did not fare much better, issuing three more walks mixed in with the big hits by Sears and Koesters.
 The eight-run first provided a jolt of energy to the Cyclone dugout.
 “We know how hard it can be to throw strikes sometimes, so when we make the other team throw strikes and they give us the free bases and then when they leave us a good pitch to hit and we hit it with a good approach with guys on base, things like that happen,” Stein said.
 HCHS continued to add on runs beyond the first, ending the game early with a three-run third and a four-run fourth featuring four straight singles by Joey Moser, Koesters, Ahrenholtz and Musich.
 Alex Monson hit an RBI single in the second, an RBI triple in the third and also walked. He finished the twin bill 4-for-6 with two extra-base hits and three RBI.
 In game two, Musich went 3-for-3 with three runs scored, two steals and two RBI while Koesters was 2-for-3 with three runs and three RBI. Moser, Ahrenholtz (2 RBI), Sears and courtesy runner Brehden Eggerss all scored twice as the team finished with 10 hits and five stolen bases.
Game one recap:
 The Cyclones took the lead three separate times in game one - 1-0 in the first, 6-4 in the third and 9-7 in the fourth - but couldn’t put the brakes on North as 14 walks led to a 16-9 defeat. Both teams totaled 10 hits and three errors.
 Starting pitcher Thomas Ernst lasted three and a third innings but was hurt by a combination of six hits, three walks and the three errors. He was charged with seven runs, but only two were earned.
 Reliever Stephen Leinen (1-1) allowed a three-run homer to Evan Helvig in the fifth that put North ahead to stay. He walked seven Stars and allowed eight runs in three innings before Eggerss issued four more walks (three with the bases loaded) in the seventh.
 Coach Stein said it was tough to watch another walk-filled game just four days after the same thing happened to the Cyclones in a loss at Denison.
 “We experienced Denison and how tough that was to sit through and battle through,” he said. “We kind of talked about how when a pitcher comes out and dominates the zone and gets contact early, our defense plays better, the flow of the game is better, and we started with that, and then we hit that second inning where we gave them a couple bases, made a couple errors, and then the tide just turned.
 “It was kind of back and forth with them giving us bases and we giving them [bases], and we ended up giving them more.”
 Helvig was the game-changer for North, clubbing an RBI double in the fourth and his three-run bomb in the fifth. He finished 3-for-4 with three runs and four RBI, also pitching the last four and two-thirds innings for the win. He allowed four unearned runs before retiring 10 of the last 11 Cyclone batters.
 Carter Pinney hit an early three-run double for the Stars while Kling and Joe Sieben (3 runs, 2 RBI) both had a pair of singles and Drew Kinnaman drew three walks and scored three runs. North also stole five bases and scored in every inning but the first.
 For the Cyclones, Ahrenholtz went 2-for-4 with a two-run double in the third, two runs scored and three total RBI. Monson was 2-for-4 with an RBI double while Moser, Kasperbauer, Musich, Ernst, Ben Muenchrath and Koesters all had singles. Moser also walked twice and scored three times.
Final thought:
 Stein added that it’s better to win game two than game one if you’re going to split a doubleheader, but he was still leaving the yard with a lot on his mind.
 “You go home feeling all right. Still, these things linger on my mind and the kids won’t forget about them,” he said. “They want to work... and they want to get better. We just need to apply some of the stuff that we work on and talk about.”

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