Kopriva comes up clutch in Redhawk victory

North Tama’s Gabe Kopriva (7) is greeted at home plate by teammates including Devin McKinley (2), Austin Unker, far left, Adam Greiner, back, and Javen Ayala (10) after his solo home run gave the Redhawks an 11-9 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning of Wednesday’s game against Dunkerton at J.L. Lister Field in Traer. -- Photo by Noah Rohlfing

Ugly wins are still wins.

This message from North Tama baseball coach Dan Kopriva was indicative of the up-and-down battle that was the Redhawks’ 11-9 victory over Iowa Star Conference foe Dunkerton (2-9) Wednesday night.

Trailing 6-1 through 1 1/2 innings, the Redhawks had to claw back from early struggles and fight past self-inflicted wounds to take the win, thanks in part to a late home run and save from Gabe Kopriva.

Coach Kopriva said the Redhawks (10-8) have had defensive issues lately and need to tighten up in that area of the game. North Tama committed four errors over the course of the night.

“As long as we got more runs at the end, I’m pleased,” he said. “Obviously, we’re not communicating on some pop-ups and fly balls and we’re struggling on defense early. It wasn’t the case early in the year and we’ve got kind of a funk going on with defense and just giving up runs.”

Austin Unker sprints to beat the throw to first during North Tama’s win over Dunkerton Wednesday. Unker had one hit and one of the Redhawks’ six RBIs in the offensive effort for North Tama. -- Photo by Noah Rohlfing

North Tama starter Aaron Snider steadied the ship after the Redhawks gave up three runs in each of the first two innings. He held the Raiders scoreless in the third inning, allowing the Redhawks to tie the game with a run in the bottom of the inning. Dunkerton scored two runs in the top of the fourth, but then disaster struck for the Raiders. They committed three errors in the bottom of the fourth inning, allowing Devin McKinley, Gabe Kopriva, Michael Schrier and Snider to score. North Tama had a 10-8 lead with three innings to play. Dunkerton committed five errors in the game.

Dunkerton scored once in the fifth, ending Snider’s day and bringing the Raiders within one. Snider gave up nine runs (seven earned) on six hits and four walks. He struck out six batters.

No runs were scored in the bottom of the fifth or top of the sixth.

Gabe Kopriva stepped to the plate with the Redhawks in need of an insurance run to make a win more likely. The Redhawks had nine hits on the night — two hits for Gabe and Snider and one each for McKinley, Javen Ayala, Schrier, Austin Unker and Ryan Hosek.

He took matters into his own hands, lifting the ball over the outfield fence to put the Redhawks up 11-9.

Aaron Snider got the win for the Redhawks against Dunkerton on June 23. Snider threw five innings and struck out six batters despite allowing seven earned runs and four walks. Gabe Kopriva came on in the sixth to close the game and the Redhawks nailed down their 10th victory of the year. Snider and Kopriva have been two among a three-member rotation for North Tama this season along with Devin McKinley. -- Photo by Noah Rohlfing

Gabe then took to the pitchers’ mound for his second inning of work in relief of Snider.

After a routine groundout, three straight Dunkerton batters reached base — putting the Redhawks in a precarious situation.

But a strikeout and groundout ended the game without fuss — and Gabe said it was faith in his teammates that allowed him to settle down and finish off the Raiders. In two innings of work, Gabe gave up two hits and two walks.

“I just had to put faith in my guys, knowing they’d make a play as they did,” Gabe said. “That helped a lot. Makes you a lot more comfortable knowing you’ve got guys behind you that you can trust.”

North Tama’s next outing is Friday night at Colo-NESCO.