After manhandling East Canton last year before winning the Div. III state title, the Hiland Hawks baseball team seemed to think that the Hornets would roll over and play dead Monday in Berlin.
They were dead wrong.
The Hawks held a slim 1-0 lead into the fourth before piling on late before finally mercying much improved East Canton in six innings 10-0, but it was far from easy.
Damien Kandel was on the hill for Hiland, and with the junior coming fresh off of a basketball run to the regional final, he threw remarkably well considering his lack of work over the winter. Kandel promptly struck out the side in the first and set up what looked to be a lopsided contest.
Hiland would load the bases in the first but couldn’t convert, as Braden Mast’s bomb down the left field line banged off the wall about six inches foul before he was retired by a strikeout. The Hornets did likewise in the top of the second when a single, sandwiched by a couple walks loaded them for East Canton. But Kandel was up to the task and escaped harm by inducing a ground ball to Cordell Miller at third.
The Hawks would take a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the inning, but it could’ve been worse. Miller started the rally with a single to right, advanced to second on a wild pitch and came home when Kandel helped himself with an RBI single to right. Kline would get on by an error, but again, Hiland couldn’t push across more runs and the Hawks had left five on base through the first two innings.
“We’ve got some guys in the lineup that just aren’t swinging the bats as well as they can right now,” said Hiland’s Tom Gibson on his team’s early struggles converting base runners to runs. “They’re going up there wanting to do more. It’s just a matter of time…it’s still really early.”
The game rolled on until the bottom of the fourth when Hiland finally broke through. Again, it would be Miller leading it off with another single, as he looped one just inside the right field line. Cameron Miller singled and both runners advanced on Kandel’s grounder. Chris Kline then drilled a shot to right to plate both and advanced to second before coming home on a Tyson Gingerich single to left to quickly balloon the lead to five.
[ BASEBALL ] After the closer swaggy T warms in the in the pen, this Chris Kline 2-RBI single ends it early. 10-0 Hawks in 6. pic.twitter.com/SY9vrup6PF
— OhioSportsTicket.com (@OhioTicket) March 27, 2017
Hiland would tack on two in the fifth and three in the sixth to end it early and give the Hawks their second win in as many games on the young season.
Kandel (1-0) was excellent on the hill for Hiland, surrendering only one hit and three walks while striking out nine in his five innings of work. Cordell Miller added to his night with a scoreless inning of relief. Eller took the loss for the Hornets, giving up five runs on seven hits in four innings of work.
“Damien was outstanding tonight,” said Gibson. “To come right out of basketball and throw five strong innings like that was impressive.”
Chris Kline was an offensive catalyst for the Hawks, driving in four with his two hits, while Cordell Miller stayed hot with three singles. Hiland recorded double-digit hits (11) for the second straight game.