GRUNDY CENTER - The hits never accumulated for North Tama.
Luckily, runs were a little easier to come by.
The Redhawks struggled to make contact all night, but were opportunistic with the men they were able to get on base to be crowned champion of Class 1A District 11 with a 4-3 victory over Gladbrook-Reinbeck on Saturday night.
North Tama (20-12) managed just two hits on the night, but coaxed six walks and a hit-by-pitch to get runners on and, eventually, in.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck's Austyn Smith was lifted to start the sixth inning after giving up one run without surrendering a hit, and the Redhawks turned four-straight walks and two wild pitches into a pair of runs off G-R's Brady Billerbeck to take a 3-2 lead.
The Rebels (17-12) got the equalizer in the bottom half with Austin Charley's sacrifice fly into shallow center scoring Jacob Smoldt.
But the Redhawks' Justin Cashow launched a double, just North Tama's second hit, to leadoff the seventh inning and came around to score on two wild pitches with Brent Billerbeck in the batter's box.
G-R was able to load the bases in the seventh with one out, but two straight ground balls back to winning pitcher Justin Jacobs ended the game with North Tama advancing to Tuesday's Substate 6 final against No. 7 BGM in Marshalltown.
"I think we got a bit of confidence when they made the pitching change," said North Tama head coach Dan Kopriva. "Smith, he kept us off-balance, was getting ground balls and we never really (hit it hard). It was kind of nice to see a pitching change, and I think it got us some confidence back."
"I was very surprised (at the change)," he added, "and we liked that change."
The Redhawks had no answer early for Smith, who cruised at the start with three perfect innings before starting the fourth with a walk, which turned into North Tama's first run after a stolen base and two sacrifice bunts.
He allowed no hits, walked one and struck out two before giving way to Billerbeck to start the sixth.
"Brady's been throwing fantastic," said G-R head coach Jeff Charley. "I didn't even think (North Tama) would touch him. And they really didn't. They never did.
"I'd do it (switch pitchers) again in a heartbeat. I'd do it again the same way."
Billerbeck unloaded a monster two-run home run to right field in the fourth inning to wrestle the lead away from North Tama.
After falling behind 3-2, the Rebels walked three times to load the bases with one out, but Jacobs was able to get out of the jam only surrendering the one tally.
The Rebels were initially unable to get Cashow over to third after he started the seventh with a double after fouling off a bunt attempt with two strikes.
A wild pitch did the job for them with Brent Billerbeck at the plate, and the Redhawk junior then squared up for a squeeze attempt with two strikes, but pulled back as the pitch was high and into the backstop to score the go-ahead run.
Parker Bolt started the seventh with his second hit of the night off of Brian Seda, who faced just Bolt before giving way back to Jacobs, who loaded the bases with two walks, but got the next two batters to hit softly back to the mound.
"It kind of makes your heartbeat a little faster," Jacobs said, "but I know our defense is pretty solid and they had my back."
The loss left a number of Rebels, who graduate six seniors, in tears and slow to leave the field.
"We gave it to (North Tama). They definitely didn't take it themselves. We gave it to them," Charley said. "It's tough losing heartbreakers like that. Just got to keep (the kids) up ... to be honest with you, I'm at a loss for words.
"It's very difficult to lose the game the way we did tonight. That's what's so hard about it."
Dalton Hulme allowed two runs on two hits while striking out three in 4 2/3 innings on the mound in his start for the Redhawks.
North Tama carries a four-game winning streak into Tuesday night's clash with BGM, which has won seven straight after knocking off No. 10 Pleasantville, 1-0 in eight innings, in its district final.
The Redhawks have made five state baseball tournament appearances in school history with the last coming in 2003.