With no clock to push the pace, the game of baseball can be a game of waiting patiently for something to happen.
The Hiland Hawks proved to be extremely patient when hosting Div. I Copley on Tuesday, April 16 at Lehman Field, waiting out 13 walks as Indians’ pitchers struggled to find the plate. That patience led to an impressive 10-1 victory that seemed like it could have been so much more had the Hawks not topped that 13 walks by stranding a mind-boggling 15 base runners in six offensive innings.
“We struggled to get the key hits when we needed them that could have broken it wide open, but we definitely took advantage of what they were giving us, and overall we played a pretty nice ball game against a good team and came away with a big win,” Hiland head coach Chris Dages said.
Copley came out and immediately let it be known that it meant business. Charlie Drumm kicked off the top of the first inning with a single, but it was erased on a double play when Jack Mathey lined to Drew Yoder at third and Yoder fired across to double off Drumm. That proved to be big. Because after Joe Reho reached on a three-base error by center-fielder Tyler Kline, Kyler Farkas delivered a base hit up the middle to put Copley on the board. It would be the last time the Indians would have a player cross home plate as pitcher Ryan Hershberger would gain control thereafter.
The Hawks challenged in the first when with two outs Andy Miller reached on a bunt single and Casey Kalman singled, but starting pitcher Mathey got Kobe Shetler to ground into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.
Copley got its lead-off man on in the second, but after Hershberger got a strike-out, Kalman gunned down a would-be base stealer for the second out, and Hershberger got through the inning unscathed.
Hiland’s bottom of the line-up got things going in the bottom of the second, and the Hawks never looked back. Drew Yoder banged a one-out triple off the green wall in left, Logan Miller walked and Ricky Miller followed with a double to center to tie the game. Mathey sandwiched a walk and a big strike-out, but with the bases loaded, he issued free passes to Andy Miller and Kalman to give Hiland a 3-1 lead. Looking for more, the Hawks left them loaded when it took reliever Ryan Poundstone to throw one pitch to get Shetler to pop out.
Hiland got a single from Kevin Borntrager and a pair of walks to go with Ricky Miller’s sacrifice fly, but again Hiland would leave the bases full and took a 4-1 lead into the fourth.
Hiland loaded the bases on a Kalman double and two more walks, and Copley had a chance to escape unscored upon, but a huge error off the bat of Ricky Miller allowed two runs to score, and another came home on Kline’s single to make it 7-1. Incredibly Hiland reloaded the bases and again came up empty.
Hershberger was simply getting better and better as the game wore on and sailed through the fifth.
“Hersh did an awesome job on the mound,” Dages said of his senior hurler. “They were jumping on his fastball in the first and second innings, but him and Casey [Kalman] made some nice adjustments, and he started to throw more off-speed stuff for strikes, and he just dominated from there.”
Walks to Kalman and Yoder put two more Hawks on in the bottom of the inning, but Logan Miller grounded out to strand two more runners.
Hershberger worked around a Reho single in the sixth, and Hiland came in and went to work on ending this one in six innings via the 10-run rule.
Ricky Miller crushed a double to the gap in right center, and Kline singled him to third. After Hershberger plated a run on a long sacrifice fly to right, Andy Miller and Kalman drew walks, and Shetler raked a two-run single to make it 10-1. With the finishing run on second, Borntrager hit a rope to left down the line, and Kalman raced for home. However, Adam Nedolast charged, scooped and threw a perfect strike to home plate to nail the sliding Kalman for out number two.
Hershberger gave up a double, a single and a walk to load the bases with two outs, but he induced a high fly to center that saw Kline roam to his right, fall down at the last second and make the circus catch laying on his back to end the game.
Hiland took advantage of the 13 free passes to create scoring chances, and Dages said his team’s approach at the plate, which came with plenty of patience and discipline, allowed them to not give in to what Copley pitchers wanted them to swing at.
“We talked about not going after pitches out of the zone that they wanted us to attack,” Dages said. “Those kinds of pitches you can’t do anything with but pop them up or hit weak grounders. Instead we were very patient, and we got some pitches we could drive, and that also led to us getting a lot of runners on base.”
Hershberger went the distance, scattering seven hits over seven innings, striking out three while walking one. Copley threw four pitchers, none of them getting through their stint without giving up a score. At the dish Borntrager lashed three hits and scored twice; Ricky Miller doubled twice, drove in a pair and scored twice; Kline raked two hits; Drew Yoder scored a pair; and Shetler drove home two.
Hiland improved to 10-1 on the campaign.
“This was a nice win for us,” Dages said. “We knew we were playing a good team, and we needed to bring our A game, and we did that, and I think it started with Hersh on the mound, and we had some solid defense behind him.”