Hiland has faced some tough customers in recent days as the Hawks’ baseball team continues to roll along in its thus-far perfect season.
Apparently, all of that quality pitching talent had more than prepared them to face Inter-Valley Conference rival ace Jay DiBacco of Strasburg.
The College of Wooster-bound Strasburg ace has been pure gold this season, so the Hawks needed no encouragement to get up for the April 24 contest in Strasburg.
Hiland came out in attack mode and delivered a strong effort up and down the line-up in dealing the Tigers a 10-3 defeat that only strengthened the Hawks’ grip on its IVC lead.
‘We haven’t seen him since his sophomore year, so it was nice to face that kind of challenge again,” said Hiland catcher Bryan Yoder, who was a huge part of Hiland’s 14-hit attack. Yoder drove home four runs in the game, and said the Hawks were amped up to face the stiff challenge DiBacco presented.
“We didn’t have to work very hard to get up for this game,” Yoder continued. “We were all pretty locked in tonight, and we generally hit better against pitchers who throw harder. It was awesome facing that kind of a challenge tonight.”
“When you have a quality pitcher like Jay, he is going to get you now and again, but I thought our approach was really good tonight,” said Hiland coach Tom Gibson. “We really tried to attack him early and stay away from his curve ball. He’s got such a great curve ball, and we were fortunate tonight that there were a few times when he struggled to throw it across the plate.”
Hiland jumped on top in the top of the second when Braden Mast led off with a single, was sacrificed to second and scored on Ryan Hershberger’s single. They took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third when Tyson Gingerich hammered a ball to the wall in left and scored an unearned run on an errant throw.
Strasburg got one of those runs back in the bottom of the third when Gino Schupbach singled, went to second on a wild pitch, moved along on Mitch Neidenthal’s single and scored when Jarrett McCracken laced a single.
“We put ourselves in position to win this game, but this is a Hiland team that can put up runs in a hurry,” said Strasburg coach Mike Becker. “You get through their order three or four times through and they start to figure guys out.”
The score remained that way until the fifth inning, when Hiland began pulling away. Chris Kline walked and took second on a single up the middle by Gingerich. They both moved up on a wild pitch and Yoder delivered a shot to center to plate both to make it 4-1.
Hiland starter Damien Kandel had been relieved by Derek Miller to begin the fifth, and the Hiland senior cruised through the fourth and fifth innings.
In the sixth Hiland sunk its teeth into creating a bigger lead. Cameron Miller got his second hit of the game to lead things off, and after Derek Miller lined out to center, Kline reached on an error and Gingerich came through with an RBI-single. Yoder then lifted the Hawks to a 7-1 lead by raking a shot to left to score two.
McCracken lifted the Tigers’ spirits in the bottom of the sixth, when he took a Miller offering and deposited it over the fence in left field for a two-run home run to trim the Hiland lead to 7-3.
However, Hiland came right back swinging in the top of the seventh to add three insurance runs, taking advantage of a pair of Strasburg relievers. Mitch Massaro crushed a double to the wall in left, Ryan Hershberger singled him home and Cameron Miller whacked his third hit of the night. A fielder’s choice and another Gingerich single plated two more runs, more than enough to seal the deal for Hiland.
The refreshed Hawks continued their perfect season, advancing to 17-0, while the Tigers fell to 11-6 and 5-5 in league play.
“We were tired at the end of last week, having played eight games in nine days,” Gibson said of his Hawks. “The kids needed a break, and they got one with prom. I don’t think we had any problem getting up for this game. We hit the ball well against a great pitcher. I am really pleased with the way we played.”
DiBacco went six innings, allowing 10 hits, seven runs of which three were earned, and struck out six while walking three. Kandel picked up the mound win, tossing four innings of five-hit, one-run ball. Derek miller was touched for two runs, allowing the home run to McCracken, but only one of those runs was earned. He struck out three in his three innings of work in which he picked up the save.
Becker said he didn’t think DiBacco threw all that poorly, but it was Hiland’s bats that made it look that way.
“It was 2-1 in the fifth, and then their bats really came to life and we didn’t make enough plays to keep it close,” Becker said. “Jay threw well. He spotted his breaking ball and they put some good swings on it. You’re not going to win a state title the way they did and not hit good pitching.”
For the Hawks, Gingerich pounded out four hits, scoring three runs while driving in a pair. Yoder had four RBI on two hits, while Cameron Miller added three hits, a run and an RBI. Hershberger also collected two hits while Kline scored three runs without getting a hit.
McCracken was the Tiger’s main threat, pounding out three hits including the two-run bomb in the fifth, while collecting all three Strasburg RBI.