SPIRIT LAKE, Iowa - Spirit Lake ace right-hander Brandon Stoll achieved a bit of a prep baseball rarity during Saturday's night Iowa playoff clash - he saved his own victory.
That's quite an achievement, especially considering that the Indians' senior took the mound for only the second time since June 17.
Stoll recorded seven strikeouts in hurling a split-stint two-hitter, while he and battery mate Nick Amundson each slugged home runs to guide Spirit Lake to a 13-3, five-inning triumph over the North Union Warriors in the Iowa Class 2A, District 2 championship game in Spirit Lake, Iowa.
DOWN?THE LINE — Spirit Lake first baseman Nick Wetzeler (far right) fires the baseball to Indians pitcher Brandon Stoll (second from left), who was covering first base on the bunt by North Union runner Brandon Kollasch (33), during the Iowa Class 2A, District 2 championship game on Saturday night in Spirit Lake, Iowa. Spirit Lake second baseman Reece Salmon (far left) backs up the play as North Union first-base coach Dustin Sobolik (middle) watches the action. (Photo by Charlie Sorrells)
Spirit Lake (15-10) advances to face Western Christian, Hull at 7 p.m. Tuesday night in Spencer, Iowa, in the Substate 1 championship clash. Western Christian downed Sioux Center, 9-2, to capture the District 1 crown on Saturday night.
North Union, the Corn Belt Conference champion, closed out its season with a 25-9 record.
"It's hard to determine your season on the last game of the year," said Warriors' mentor Chad Slagle. "They (the Indians) got some big hits right away, and we couldn't stop the bleeding - it's as simple as that."
One of those hits came off the bat of Stoll - a pivotal solo homer over the fence in left-center - to stake Spirit Lake to a quick 1-0 lead with one out during the top of the first inning.
"We had hit only one home run as a team during the regular season, but we've hit three in the playoffs, including two in this game," said Stoll, who had connected for the Indians' lone round-tripper prior to district play.
Stoll recorded three strikeouts and issued two walks during a scoreless bottom of the first before Spirit Lake leadoff batter Paul Brown delivered an RBI single in the second to plate Niles Skogerboe, who had reached on a one-out single, for an early 2-0 edge.
Stoll, who had missed his turn in the pitching rotation for more than three weeks during the regular season due to tendinitis, worked around Spencer Ricke's two-out single during the third inning before Spirit Lake exploded for five runs in the top of the fourth.
Two North Union errors sandwiched around Andrew Ites' single with two out triggered the Indians' offensive outburst. Stoll, who went 3-for-4 with three RBIs, assisted his own cause by lining a run-scoring single before catcher Nick Amundson cranked a towering two-run home run to left to extend the lead to 7-0.
Stoll, who improved his seasonal record to 7-0, actually accomplished another rarity - or oddity in this case - during the home half of the fourth. The Indians' senior ace plunked Alex Deitering for the second time in the game before hitting Brandon Kollasch and Jake Govern in consecutive fashion to load the bases with no outs.
Stoll, who will play baseball for Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. next season, just shook his head in disbelief before bearing down to record a strikeout. Second baseman Reece Salmon then helped maintain Stoll's shutout bid by triggering a 4-6-3, inning-ending double play.
Spirit Lake then sent a dozen batters to the plate in the fifth, plating six runs on the strength of Ites' two-run double, Brown's sacrifice fly and Stoll's RBI single to build a 13-0 lead.
"I thought our kids showed a lot of character by scoring three runs in the fifth when we were trailing by 13," said Slagle. "We could've thrown in the towel at that point, but our kids didn't stop working.
"That's what I'm going to miss about those guys (seniors) - they worked hard all of the time and were a great group to coach."
The Indians, however, would need all of those runs to exit the ballpark early via the 10-run rule as Warrior slugger Sawyer Doocy spoiled Spirit Lake's shutout bid and Salmon's relief appearance during the last of the fifth.
Colin Runksmeier greeted Salmon with a leadoff single to left before Doocy drilled a towering two-run home to deep left to slice into the Indians' lead and force Spirit Lake head coach Jason Schneider to bring Stoll back to the hill.
Stoll notched a strikeout, but walked Garrett Johnson, plunked Deitering for a third time on the contest and allowed a single to Brandon Kollasch. Kollasch's hit was bobbled in center, allowing Johnson to cross the plate and reduce the Indians' lead to 13-3.
Stoll, however, recorded a strikeout and got a groundout to save his own victory and seal the red-and-white's district championship.
Stoll finished with seven strikeouts, five hit batters and four walks to his credit over five total frames. Stoll allowed one unearned run on two hits.
North Union starting pitcher Cody Runksmeier gave up seven runs - only two earned - on eight hits, struck out five and did not issue a walk in 3 2/3 innings to receive the loss.
Johnson allowed six runs - four earned - on four hits, fanned two and walked two in one inning of relief. Kollasch worked the final 1/3 of an inning.
Ites and Skogerboe each supplied two hits to the Indians' 12-hit attack.
Spirit Lake 110 56 - 13 12 1
North Union 000 03 - 3 4 4
Brandon Stoll (WP), Reece Salmon (5), Stoll (5, Sv) and Nick Amundson. Cody Runksmeier (LP), Garrett Johnson (4), Brandon Kollasch (5) and Jake Adams.
LOB-North Union 9, Spirit Lake 6. 2B-Andrew Ites (SL). HR-Sawyer Doocy (NU), Stoll (SL), Amundson (SL). SF-Paul Brown (SL). SAC-Brandon Kollasch (NU).