It’s probably not surprising that Red Oak sophomore Garrett Couse on Saturday missed an important part of baseball protocol.
After all, his three-run homer down the left-field line — turning an 8-6 lead into an 11-6 advantage — was the first of his high school career.
“I was watching it, and I actually missed first,’’ he said sheepishly. “I had to go back and tag it.’’
It stood as the game’s biggest hit, as fourth-seeded Red Oak held on for an 11-9 win over fifth-seeded Tri-Center in a Class 2-A district baseball opener at the Underwood field.
Red Oak (10-17) advances to meet top-seeded, sixth-rated Treynor (26-9) in Tuesday’s District 15 semifinal at approximately 7:30 p.m. in Treynor. Tri-Center ends its season at 18-10.
Many were surprised that Red Oak was awarded a higher seed than the Trojans by the district’s coaches, given that the Tigers were well below .500 at the time of the meeting and Tri-Center was well above .500.
“There may have been some grumbling out there, but we didn’t hear it,’’ Red Oak coach Mark Erickson said. “We know that the Hawkeye Ten’s a super-tough conference, and we feel really battle-tested when we get to districts.’’
Tri-Center pulled even at 6-6 in the top of the fourth, as Kyle Siebels stroked an RBI triple and Jaxon Johnson followed with a sacrifice fly to plate Siebels.
Red Oak scored a decisive five runs in the bottom of the fourth. Mitch Johnson walked and was sacrificed to second by Dawson Bond. Cam Vanderhoof singled to put runners at the corners, and Carter Bruce followed with a two-run double to give the Tigers an 8-6 edge.
Tri-Center coach Max Kozeal replaced starter Kaleb Smith with Trevor Carlson. Cole Carlson beat out an infield hit and Couse followed with his well-timed first prep home run.
“It was a fastball right down the middle, and I hit it as hard as I could,’’ Couse said.
Erickson said the key was Red Oak’s ability to get outs after its ace, senior Bruce (6-2, 2.9 ERA), exited with one out in the third. Dillon Burns pitched 31⁄3 innings and Dawson finished the final 11⁄3.
“Dillon and Dawson stepped up in a big way tonight,’’ Erickson said.
Vanderhoof, Cole Carlson and Couse had two hits each for Red Oak, which has been eliminated by Treynor each of the last two years.
“It’s our third chance, and we’re going to try and go get them,’’ Cole Carlson said.
Tri-Center (18-10) 031 203 0— 9 7 2
Red Oak (10-17) 060 500 x—11 9 2
W: Dillon Burns. L: Kaleb Smith. 2B: TC, Kyle Siebels; RO, Cam Vanderhoof, Cole Carlson. 3B: TC, Siebels. HR: RO, Garrett Couse.
Underwood 10, Shenandoah 0, 5 inn.
Landon Nelson and Nick Ravlin combined on an abbreviated one-hitter, and Blake Hall went 2 for 2 with a homer and four RBIs as Underwood cruised into the semifinal with the five-inning victory.
The Eagles (23-4) advanced to meet second-seeded Clarinda (11-15) at 5 p.m. Tuesday in Treynor. Shenandoah closed at 7-23.
Only one of the four teams remaining in District 15 will reach the substate final.
“It’s going to be a challenge,” Underwood coach Andy Vanfossan said. “The hits will come, but if you have pitching and defense, you can win a lot of games.”
Leading 2-0, the Eagles broke it open in the third. Drake Adair reached on an error, stole second and scored on Hall’s single. After Tyler Boothby walked, Zach Teten laced a two-run triple to make it 6-0.
In the fourth, Ravlin tripled with one out and scored on Hall’s two-run homer to straightaway center, his third of the year.
Nelson needed 53 pitches to get through four innings, and Ravlin pitched a scoreless fifth.
“You don’t take anybody for granted, so it was nice to come out and take care of business right away,” Vanfossan said.
Teten finished 3 for 3 with his two RBIs while Ravlin added two hits.
Despite a losing record, Clarinda had some quality wins at the time of the seeding meeting, getting the nod over Underwood for the two seed.
“The coaches felt they were a second seed,” Vanfossan said. “There’s not much I can do about it.”
Shenandoah (7-23) 000 00— 0 1 4
Underwood (23-4) 114 22—10 10 1
W: Landon Nelson. L: Nick Mather. 3B: U, Zach Teten, Nick Ravlin. HR: U, Blake Hall.