Logan Runde tossed his glove in the air, clinched his fists and braced for another dogpile.
In command all night, the senior right-hander scattered three hits in a complete-game performance to lead Dubuque Hempstead to a 2-1 victory over North Scott on Wednesday in the Iowa Class 4A Substate 5 championship game at Petrakis Park. Appropriately, he ended the game with his ninth strikeout.
“I was prepared all day for that dogpile,” Runde said after improving to 6-1 and raising his strikeout total to 53 in 43 2/3 innings. “It’s a hard feeling to describe what it feels like to be under there, but I’ve been through it before and I couldn’t wait for it to happen again tonight.
“It’s such a relief to be going back to state. There was a little pressure on us after making it last year. So it’s definitely a relief.”
No. 6-ranked Hempstead (30-10) advanced to the state tournament for the second consecutive season and for the 15th time in program history. The Mustangs, who won their third straight after a late-season three-game slide, wil join seven other schools next week at Duane Banks Field on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City.
North Scott ended its season at 26-14 and fell short of its fifth trip to state.
Kellen Strohmeyer extended his own single-season hits record with two, including his 59th of the year to drive in the winning run in the bottom of the sixth after the Mustangs caught a huge break.
With two outs, No. 9 hitter Michael Garrett reached on a dropped fly ball to right field. He stole second and scored the winning run on Strohmeyer’s base hit.
“I hit it decent and started to take my helmet off when I saw it hit his glove,” Garrett said. “I thought he caught it. When it hit the ground I had to get my helmet back on. From there I just knew I had to get to second any way possible. I knew Kellen would get a hit and I’d score.”
Strohmeyer struck out in his first two at-bats against Parker Ruth before singling in the fourth.
“My first two at-bats didn’t end the way I wanted, but I was right on him,” Strohmeyer said. “That first hit gave me a lot of confidence. I knew if I got my pitch, I’d make it hurt.
“In that situation, when they make a mistake, you have to capitalize on it. I really didn’t want to go to extra innings. It felt so good to come through there, especially because it meant we’d be going back to state.”
Hempstead posed the first real threat of the game in the bottom of the second inning. Trey Schaber started the rally when his one-out line drive glanced off the third baseman’s glove, Solen Munson walked and Garrett drew a two-out hit batsman to load the bases. But Ruth ended the threat by striking out Strohmeyer.
The Mustangs quickly loaded the bases in the third, when Zach Sabers reached on an error, Runde chopped a single through the left side, and Dane Schope reached when Ruth mishandled his bunt. John Cornelius plated the first run with a deep fly ball to right, but Ruth regrouped to retire the next two batters to keep the score at 1-0.
“I came into that at-bat just wanting to put the ball in play any way I could to give Zach a chance to score,” Cornelius said. “North Scott us a good ball club, so it was key to get that first run.”
Runde retired the first 12 batters he faced, including six via strikeout, before Sam Skarick led off the fifth with a bloop single to shallow left field for North Scott’s first base runner. Skarick moved to second on Ruth’s bunt and took third on Adam Allen’s ground out. Kaden Kelly followed with a sinking liner just out of the reach of diving center fielder Garrett to tie the game at 1-1.
Runde allowed just three base runners and had five 1-2-3 innings.
“It felt like I had my best stuff all night,” Runde said. “All the props to (catcher) George Sherlock. He called a great game, and I couldn’t have done it without him. He took the lead. It was all him.”
Ruth limited Hempstead to five hits and struck out eight.
“That was a tremendously well-pitched game,” Hempstead coach Jeff Rapp said. “The Ruth kid did something that’s only happened to us once all year. He kept a really good offense off balance. We just found a way at the end.
“This is a relief more than anything, because this was expected of us going all the way back to last July. We had the team to do it, and they knew it. They handled the pressure well all year.”